ACTRESS-turned-MP Glenda Jackson, Liam Fox, Anne Widdecombe and several lords were among the politicians who gave testimonials to the good character of Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans at his rape and sex assault trial yesterday.
A number of Evans’s constituents also testified, including a Clitheroe vicar who said he was ‘shocked’ when the MP was charged.
And the three deputy speakers of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, Dawn Primarolo and Eleanor Laing, who replaced Evans, also gave character references at the MP’s trial at Preston Crown Court.
Evans, 56, denies sexually abusing seven young men on various dates between 2002 and last year by using his ‘powerful’ political influence to take advantage of them, often while drunk.
The MP was one of three deputy speakers elected by his parliamentary colleagues in 2010, along with Speaker John Bercow.
Chorley MP Mr Hoyle, who took office at the same time, said: “I found Nigel to be a dedicated and supportive colleague.
“I know Nigel is liked and well respected by members across the House, including myself.”
Ms Jackson referred to Evans's ‘innate humour’ and ‘sense of fair play’ as he excelled in his role as deputy speaker.
Ms Widdecombe said: “I have no hesitation in giving this reference.
“He has shown himself to be truthful, considerate, kind and gentle.
“Such qualities at Westminster are not universal."
The Rev Andy Froud, vicar of St Mary Magdalene CE Church in Clitheroe, said Evans was known locally as ‘a hard-working MP who will champion the cause of constituents’.
He added: “I was shocked by the charges brought against him.”
Evans has pleaded not guilty to one rape, two indecent assaults, five sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault.
The mayor of Clitheroe, Kevin Horkin, said: “I believe Nigel Evans's record as a hard-working and diligent MP stands proud on its own merits.
“He is extremely well thought of locally.
“He is without doubt a truly selfless individual and an asset to our town.”
And Lord Dobbs of Wylye, author of the House of Cards novel, said: “He is extremely sociable and gregarious. I regard him as a man of integrity.
“Someone I can trust both professionally and personally.”