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What next for Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans?
AS Nigel Evans yesterday promised his constituents he would return to work as Ribble Valley MP, one question hung unspoken in the air.
It was whether he would still be doing the job after next year’s General Election.
Constituency association chairman Michael Ranson said it was ‘a matter for another day’.
With legal bills of more than £100,000 to pay, it is a question that will soon be very important for the 56-year-old.
There is little chance he will ever regain the well-paid post of Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
Most commentators believe there is no prospect after the lurid allegations and revelations in court that he will ever succeed John Bercow in the top job in charge of MPs’ debates, as many expected a year ago.
But Prime Minister David Cameron’s hint at an early return to the fold of Tory MPs in Parliament after his spell as an ‘independent’ is welcome news for Mr Evans.
However, whether he will still be on the green benches of the Commons after May 2015 requires him to go through many hoops.
The first is whether he wishes to stay in the public eye after his ‘11 months of hell’.
Once he has done that, he has to take soundings of his party officials in Ribble Valley as to whether he still has their support.
Then councillors will be asked to have their say.
If the key figures in the Ribble Valley Conservative Association have the same confidence in him as Mr Ranson, Clitheroe mayor and close friend Kevin Horkin, and senior councillor Ken Hind, the next group to be consulted is grass roots members.
Mr Evans has been a popular MP but Tory strategists are terrified of UKIP.
The sort of 60-plus died-in-the-wool party supporting males most likely to defect to Nigel Farage’s anti-Brussels band are seen as the group most likely to be offended by the allegations about Mr Evans’ lifestyle made in court.
If opinion soundings among ordinary voters suggest that his 14,769 majority might be under threat if he stands, he may never get the chance to do so.
Even if he does and the party nationally and locally works its socks off for him, his four-week trial and year of adverse publicity might rebound on him at the ballot box.
It is brutally unfair that a man unanimously found innocent by a jury of all the charges against him might lose the job he loves and has done for 22 years.
But, as they say, ‘politics is a rough old trade’.