How 'putting a smile on mum's face' shaped the political and personal life of Nigel Evans

Nigel Evans pictured in 2013
-Credit: (Image: PA)

One of the first things Nigel Evans did, on learning he had won the 1992 election to be the Ribble Valley MP, was "phone home".

Down in Swansea, Nigel's brother Tony answered the call made from Stonyhurst College near Clitheroe. Tony's first words were: "Thank you".

Recalling that moment 32 years ago, as he acknowledged his defeat last Thursday, Nigel says: "I said 'thank you for what Tony?' and he said 'thank you for putting that smile on mum's face'."

READ MORE: Nigel Evans says 'it's not about me' as he ponders life after 32 years as Ribble Valley MP

Making his mum Betty proud, and protecting her, was a duty Nigel was steadfastly committed to. And it was for fear of upsetting her that he refused to openly admit being gay until after she died in 2009.

In fact, Nigel's hand had been forced, in 2010, when an unnamed Labour MP threatened to 'out' him. He said at the time: "I’m not going to live a lie any more. With my background in South Wales I wasn’t just the only Tory in the village, it felt like I was the only gay, too."

There has never been any suggestion that Betty would have disapproved of Nigel's sexuality. Looking back later, he did regret not being honest with his mum. "I loved her very much and wish I had shared it with her," he said after coming out.

Nigel had faced a personal battle since he first realised he was gay aged 12 or 13. "I struggled with it over many years, whether I should come out or not," he said in 2014.

"My mum was in her 80s, there was no right time. I just did not want to upset her. I didn't know how she would take it."

Referring to his mum's pride at learning her son had been elected as an MP is one of few occasions where Nigel's expression betrays his emotions.

And one can only believe that, if she was looking down at the leisure centre in Clitheroe in the early hours of Friday morning, Betty would indeed still be incredibly proud of her son for what he has achieved - personally and politically - over the last 32 years.

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