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Nigel Evans's rise to deputy speaker
3:42pm Thursday 10th April 2014 in News
NIGEL Evans was born on November 10, 1957, in Swansea, and educated locally at the Dynevor School, original planning a political career in Wales which never took off.
His initial attempt to revive it in East Lancashire started badly when he lost true-blue Ribble Valley to Liberal Democrat Mike Carr in a spectacular 1991 by-election disaster for the Conservative Party.
Victory came nine months later when he regained the seat for the Tories, starting a 22-year career at Westminster as a likeable, sociable MP who never quite hit the heights predicted.
The 56-year-old had joined the Conservatives as a 17-year-old schoolboy in his native Swansea, where he worked in the family newsagents and convenience shop he finally sold in 1992 after 70 years as ‘Evans the News’.
After graduating from Swansea University in 1979, he was elected as a West Glamorgan county councillor in 1985 before losing three elections in the same Parliament, starting with the South Wales Labour strongholds of Swansea West in 1987, and Pontypridd in 1989.
He was expected to hold Ribble Valley for the Conservatives in a 1991 by-election prompted by MP David Waddington’s elevation to leader of the House of Lords.
After his surprise defeat, Mr Evans claimed victory in 1992.
He quickly established himself as good company at Westminster and a good speaker with a sharp wit.
Initial reservations about his questions which had emerged during the by-election defeat were quickly dispelled as his boyish charm and boundless enthusiasm made him a popular MP with local Conservatives and Ribble Valley residents.
He seemed destined for great things - certainly junior ministerial and possibly Cabinet rank.
Several spells as a Parliamentary Private Secretary – assistant to a government minister – followed, but his right wing Euro-sceptic views deterred then Prime Minister John Major from giving him a ministerial role.
His career stalled but Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour landslide gave him new prospects as the outgoing Prime Minister was replaced as Tory leader by William Hague.
He was drafted on to the front bench as Wales spokesman after a Tory wipeout in the principality.
New leader Iain Duncan-Smith confirmed Mr Evans as shadow Welsh Secretary in 2001 until 2003.
When Michael Howard took over the Conservative helm he proposed to demote Mr Evans’s post to non-shadow cabinet rank and the Ribble Valley MP resigned the post.
After a spell as vice-chairman of the party in 2004/2005, in June 2010 he was elected as one of three deputy speakers in the House of Commons.
Mr Evans revealed he was gay in December 2010 after a conversation with constituent and actress friend Vicky Entwistle, saying he was fed up with ‘living a lie’.
His high-profile ‘coming out’ was seen as a major event and welcomed by many at Westminster and in the wider community.
All too typically he joked at the time: “It wasn’t so much ‘the only gay in the village’ as the ‘only Tory in Swansea’.”
With a majority of more than 14,000 in 2010, a leading role in the Parliamentary Beer Group, representing Speaker John Bercow on overseas trips and popular with MPs of all parties, he had been tipped as Tory candidate to take the Commons chair.
He was forced to stand aside from chairing House of Commons debates in May last year after the first charges of rape and sexual assault.
In September, he had to give up the role of Deputy Speaker altogether after being charged with a raft of sexual offences, including rape of a young man at his Pendleton home.
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