An MP accused of making racists remarks has said his language was “unacceptable and alcohol was a factor”.
Neil Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, lost the Labour whip after allegations emerged in 2022 he made racist comments to a journalist with a British-Chinese background in a House of Commons bar.
Speaking to ITV News, the MP said he remembered it all, and regretted it. There is currently a parliamentary investigation into the incident.
“The language I used was unacceptable and alcohol was a factor in that,” he said. “But it’s not an excuse for poor standards of behaviour.”
Around the time of the incident in February 2022, he said he was drinking 200 units each week, around 10 pints of beer a night, which is far in excess of the recommended limit of 14.
Mr Coyle said he came from a family of heavy drinkers so, to begin with, did not recognise it was a problem.
“Now, looking back, I would say I have always been a problem drinker. I was in the pub with my mum at 14,” he explained.
“I remember being drunk at 15 and dad saying to me, ‘if you didn’t come home and throw up in the pond, I’d be more worried about you.’ This was all just part of normal life in the Coyle family,” he added.
The MP said he stopped drinking altogether a month after the incident but the drinking culture in Westminster contributed to his intake.
He said: “Alcohol is everywhere within Westminster. In previous years, I always lost weight and drank less when Parliament wasn’t sitting. Always.”
He called the drinking culture at Westminster “problematic”.
“There are people who, even at the time I got into trouble, were drinking more than me,” he said.
“There are people in Parliament – not just MPs – who drink throughout the day. I only drank after work and still managed to put away as much as I did.
“Taking the decision to stop was a big one and is probably the only way I will stay healthy and alive.
“When I stopped last year, I didn’t think it would be forever, but the longer I’ve done it and the more the benefits come through, the more determined I am on a health, work and family level to make sure I sustain it,” he explained.
He continued: “I have lost two-and-a-half stone since last March, I’m having the best sleep of my adult life, I’ve saved hundreds of pounds and got time back that wouldn’t have been there.”
He told ITV News that he had not spoken to his party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, so he does not prejudice the investigation into his alleged racism.
The MP said he is full of regret for the incident and has privately apologised to the journalist in question, Henry Dyer.
Pictured top: Neil Coyle MP (Picture: UK Parliament)
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