Evans the Mouth grovels to Major after touch of verbal diarrhoea

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John Major's unreserved condemnation of right-wing Tory MP David Evans for racist and sexist remarks made during an interview with a school magazine, sat uneasily yesterday in light of their past relationship.

The member for Welwyn and Hatfield, or Evans the Mouth, as he is known in the corridors of Westminster, provoked the humiliating attack from the Prime Minister, after describing his Labour election opponent as a single girl with "three bastard children" who had "never done a proper job".

And in his remarks to sixth-formers at Stanborough School, Mr Evans called Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, "dead from the neck upwards" and said the Prime Minister was "vindictive and unforgiving".

But the self-made millionaire and cockney swaggerer yesterday witnessed how unforgiving his leader really is when he was forced to issue a grovelling apology on Conservative Central Office notepaper, following a strong rebuke by the Chief Whip, Alastair Goodlad.

Mr Evans said: "The comments which have been reported were taken out of context. After due consideration, I regret some of the things I said and I apologise to the Prime Minister and to others for any embarrassment or offence which may have been caused."

The party machine ensured there were smiles all round when Mrs Bottomley announced on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that she had received a "very gallant apology" from the MP. Things have not always been so strained between Mr Evans and his leader. During one exchange in the Commons in 1992, Mr Major praised his Yorkshire terrier of the back benches for making "his own distinctive points in his own distinctive way".

Mr Evans also earned brownie points from the Prime Minister by following the Brixton boy's lead and cashing in on his own working-class credentials.

Elected to Parliament in 1987, Mr Evans embodies the Tory beer vote. Staunchly populist, his working-class boy-made-good attitude means that he despises foreigners, the unemployed, socialists and homosexuals. His caveman style is best displayed during Prime Minister's Question Time.

In a 1995 session he asked: "Is it the Conservative Party who want to split up the UK, or is it that lot opposite, led by Bambi, with his 60 quid-a-week haircut, who want to do so?"

He begins nearly all his questions by mentioning his wife Janice, his muse of common sense, and once asked Mr Major whether he was "aware that Janice takes quite a lot of interest in the House?"

But his relationship with the Prime Minister deteriorated last year when he openly backed, and became the main force behind John Redwood's, leadership attempt.

In his latest outburst he has received the backing of John Dean, the Conservative association chairman in Welwyn, and the executive of the 1992 committee of backbench MPs.

Mr Dean said: "David Evans is a colourful and outspoken MP but what is more important is his incredible ability to stand up for his constituents. I believe strongly that a MP should give their views and stand up for what they believe in."

But in typically stubborn manner, 61-year-old Mr Evans has so far refused to apologise to his Labour opponent, Melanie Johnson, a school inspector and magistrate who has lived with her partner for 18 years.

Janet Anderson, Labour's spokeswoman on women's affairs, yesterday marched to Downing Street with a delegation of 13 female MPs demanding that Mr Evans be de-selected before the general election. She said his "disgraceful comments clearly made him unsuitable to be a parliamentary candidate".

Soundbites from terrier of the back benches

The wit and wisdom of David Evans:

"The Labour Party wobble on everything. Had they been defending British sheep farmers, they would have achieved a load of jelly and red at that." (1992)

"Will the Prime Minister confirm that unlike that lot opposite we will not let Babycham be nationalised and we shall not have to watch Bambi on television every night." (1994)

"Unlike them lot opposite, we are on this side totally united behind our leader." (1995)

"Does my honourable Friend agree with Janice that if that lot ... got their hands on the Brussels cheque book 14 years of Conservative government would disappear like rats up a drainpipe." (1994)

Outside the House, his other gems include: "Ask any London taxi driver if they'll stop for a coloured fare. They are trouble. The Rastafarians and all that lot don't fit in."

"I don't trust Russians. The more nuclear weapons the better."

"Two-thirds of the unem- ployed could find jobs."

"People in Britain have become more and more lazy since the Second World War".