'Complaints about drunken behaviour may have saved my life', says MP Neil Coyle

“I cannot apologise enough for the harm and upset caused": Neil Coyle tells House of Commons how complaints about his behaviour prompted him to stop drinking

An MP who is facing a five-day suspension for his "abusive language with racial overtones", says complaints about his drunken behaviour prompted him to turn his life around.

Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, was found by an independent panel of breaching Parliament's bullying and harassment policy in a report published today.

In one of two seperate incidents in the House of Commons' Strangers' Bar, he subjected another MP's assistant to “foul-mouthed and drunken abuse”.

He used “abusive language with racial overtones” towards half-Chinese political journalist Henry Dyer.

Mr Coyle, who was suspended by the Labour Party over the complaints, accepted that he was drunk on both occasions.

Both incidents took place in the Strangers' Bar in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

He has previously spoken about how he used to drink 16 pints a night, but told the Commons he has since celebrated a year of not drinking.

In a statement to the House of Commons following this morning's report, Mr Coyle said: “I want to say how sorry I am for the upset and offence my behaviour caused last year.

“I wish to specifically apologise to the two complainants who were subject to my drunk and offensive behaviour and attitude.

“I cannot apologise enough for the harm and upset caused, and I’m ashamed of my conduct frankly. It should not have happened.

“No-one should leave any MP’s company so shocked or appalled at their inappropriate behaviour or failure to meet the standards rightly expected of this office.”

After apologising to his constituents, Mr Coyle thanked the two complainants for their “bravery” before adding: “I fully accept my failings and again express my sincere apologies.

“I will use the time suspended to reflect on self-improvement and have already undergone some training, including on tackling unconscious bias – which I recommend to all members and their teams.”

He added: “I also owe the complainants my further gratitude for calling out my upsetting words and actions. It forced me to recognise that my drinking had become a dependency and to seek help.

“On March 1 this week I celebrated a year since I stopped drinking and would not have been able to stop without their effective intervention.

“In the healthcare received since last February, it’s also been made abundantly clear to me that had I not stopped drinking it’d have likely caused a significant stroke or worse. Their intervention has quite possibly saved my life.

“Going forward, I will remain abstinent to offer the best chances for my own health to continue to improve, the best relationship with my daughter and family to continue to grow, and the best service to continue to my constituents.

“I hope in speaking up publicly about ending my alcohol dependency I am also able to support others struggling to maintain or regain control.”

Mr Coyle concluded his statement by saying: “Going forward, I will endeavour to be a stronger ally for the east and south east Asian community to prove my apology to the journalist who had the courage to complain, to my constituents who too often see the downplaying of the discrimination and hate crime they experience, and to my own family who I have let down.

“Two of my brothers have Chinese wives and I have two Chinese nieces and a nephew. I also need to show them this was an aberration and ensure they can, once again, be proud of me.”

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