oris Johnson’s deputy chief of staff criticised female Tory MPs for reporting Neil Parish for watching pornography in parliament as he called for an end to “blue-on-blue” attacks.
Mr Parish, who served as MP for Tiverton and Honiton, resigned last week after female colleagues claimed to have seen him looking at adult content while sitting near them.
During a meeting on Friday, David Canzini reportedly told staffers he was “shocked” that the women chose to expose the incident in an open forum.
A source told the Sunday Times that he called for an end to “blue-on-blue” attacks as he urged his colleagues to stick together.
However, Downing Street told the paper that Mr Canzini had not explicitly singled out the female MPs behind the complaint.
Female MPs at the meeting vehemently disagreed with his reading of the situation.
According to the paper, one said: “The reality is that if there was a decent mechanism, so that MPs could raise their concerns about a colleague with the whips with the confidence it would actually be acted upon, then MPs raising their concerns in an open forum would not happen.
“We do have to end the blue-on-blue attacks, but we can only do that by having proper respect for female colleagues. This epitomises the concerns about whether female colleagues are there to be tolerated or valued.”
Prior to his resignation, Mr Parish had been suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party, pending the outcome of the investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner Kathryn Stone.
In an interview with BBC South West, he said: “The situation was that – funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at. I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit which I shouldn’t have done. But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.”
Asked if that was deliberate he told the BBC: “That was deliberate… that was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber.”
“What I did was absolutely totally wrong.”
A spokesperson for Tiverton and Honiton Conservatives confirmed the resignation: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Neil Parish for his service to our communities over the past 12 years.
“We support his decision to step down as our Member of Parliament.”
Mr Parish has said on Friday he would wait for the full outcome of the investigation before commenting but appeared to suggest he may have opened the file by mistake.
“Of course it’s embarrassing,” he told the BBC. “And it’s embarrassing for my wife and family, and so that’s my main concern at the moment. I have a very supportive wife and I thank her for that.”
Asked if it was a mistake, he said: “I will await the findings of the inquiry.”
Pressed on whether he had opened something on his phone in error, Mr Parish said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”