Election '97: Straight-talking right-winger reckons he will have last say

Kathy Marks on the wit and wisdom of David Evans, man of the people

The man in the battered Fiesta caught sight of David Evans, screeched to a halt and reversed back up the road. "How yer doing, guv'nor?" he yelled.

The man, who turned out to be Den Cox, owner of a local fish-and-chip shop, had stopped to wish his local MP well for Thursday. Mr Cox was full of praise for Mr Evans. "He's a great man, like a gun barrel, dead straight," he said. "You don't get no pretty words from him, you get direct talk."

It is with direct talk that the colourful Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield has made a name. A staunch right-winger of the hanging and flogging school, he was vilified last month for an interview with a school magazine in which he sprayed abuse in several directions.

Mr Evans, 61, described Virginia Bottomley as "dead from the neck upwards", scorned female MPs generally and said his Labour opponent, Melanie Johnson, was a "single girl" with "three bastard children" who had "never done a proper job". He also referred to a "black bastard" who had been convicted of rape.

But far from damaging his prospects in Welwyn Hatfield, where boundary changes have reduced his majority to 6,500, Mr Evans's outburst appears to have boosted his popularity. As he canvassed yesterday in Mardley Heath, an affluent area on the outskirts of Welwyn, an elderly woman threw her arms around him. "I hope to heaven you get back in," she said. "You speak your mind. I wish there were more like you."

Mr Evans shows no hint of contrition. A self-made millionaire, he loves his barrow-boy image and believes that his comments demonstrate he is a man of the people. "The voters here know what David Evans is about, so they weren't shocked. Maybe my language was a bit colourful, but I think the meat of it was what people think. For every person round here who calls me bigoted, there's another one who says: 'You were a bit out of order' and then leans forward and whispers 'But I agree with you, mate'."

Mr Evans elaborated on his views about female MPs yesterday - they are by necessity "sub-standard", he said - and he reiterated his opinion of Miss Johnson. "She lives in Cambridge with her boyfriend and three illegitimate children. I've lived here for 35 years, I'm a family man with family values. If ever there was a stark choice between two people, this is it."

Welwyn Hatfield is a barometer seat. It has never returned a Tory MP when Labour has been in power. Mr Evans said he expected to hang on.

John Redwood, for whom he was campaign manager during the leadership battle, has lent support, as has Lord Parkinson. "We went into the heart of Melanie country last week," Mr Evans said. "Bandit country. I got a few mouthfuls there, I can tell you." His tirade last month at least provides a talking-point on doorsteps. "I've been your MP for 10 years and I get myself into hot water sometimes," he says by way of introduction.

The well-groomed women in the semi-detached houses of Mardley Heath are unperturbed. "I think he's just a typical man of his generation," said one. "He probably opened his mouth without thinking. My husband does it all the time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower