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Home ยป Complaints About My Drunken Behaviour Saved My Life, Says MP

Complaints About My Drunken Behaviour Saved My Life, Says MP

Image source, PA Media

Image caption, Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, in London

By Kate Whannel

Political reporter, BBC News

MP Neil Coyle has thanked a parliamentary assistant and journalist for “possibly saving my life”, after they complained about his behaviour.

Mr Coyle – who sits as an independent after being suspended by Labour – is facing a five day ban from the Commons over “foul-mouthed and drunken abuse”.

Apologising for his behaviour, the MP said the complaints forced him to address his relationship with alcohol.

He said he had since gone a year without drinking.

His apology to the House of Commons, came after a report found he had breached harassment rules.

The Independent Expert Panel, which oversees the complaint’s process, said Mr Coyle’s behaviour towards a parliamentary assistant had been “shocking and intimidating”.

It also said he had used “abusive language with racial overtones” towards parliamentary journalist Henry Dyer. Both incidents took place in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons.

Mr Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark since 2015, was suspended from Labour when the allegations first emerged. He was also banned from bars in Parliament for six months.

Sir Stephen Irwin, chair of the Independent Expert Panel, said: “In relation to both episodes, it was clear that very marked abuse of alcohol was at the root of events.

“Since the incident, the respondent has taken considerable steps to ensure no repetition of the behaviour, including informing us that he has stopped drinking alcohol.”

Mr Coyle accepted the panel’s decision and speaking in the House of Commons, he apologised to his constituents, local Labour Party members and his family.

He said he was “ashamed” of his past behaviour but was “resolute” in his desire to change adding: “I need to show them [his family] this was an aberration and ensure they can, once again, be proud of me.”

He also expressed gratitude to the two complainants.

‘Damage’

“It forced me to recognise that my drinking had become a dependency and to seek help.

“On March 1 this week I celebrated a year since I stopped drinking and would not have been able to stop without their effective intervention.

“In the healthcare received since last February, it’s also been made abundantly clear to me that had I not stopped drinking it’d have likely caused a significant stroke or worse.

“Their intervention has quite possibly saved my life.”

In its report, the Independent Expert Panel also criticised one of the complainants, Mr Dyer for speaking publicly about his complaint while the investigation was ongoing.

Sir Stephen said it led to “wide publicity and to reputational damage to the respondent, before there had been any investigation or findings as to what had happened”.

The panel ruled the breach of confidentiality was “egregious” but said it hadn’t materially affected the investigation.

‘Kindness’

Mr Dyer wrote about the incident with Mr Coyle on the Insider news website in February 2022, in which he said the MP had made comments about his racial background.

Responding to the panel’s report, the journalist, who now works for the Guardian, said: “Everyone working in Parliament should be able to do so without harassment and abuse.

“I spoke out to raise awareness of racism, particularly anti-Asian racism, and of inappropriate conduct.”

He said he was grateful to the ICGS (Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme) “for the way in which they have handled this matter, and to my colleagues and friends for their support and kindness.

“I am pleased this process has concluded and I can get on with my work as a journalist reporting on Westminster.”