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MP Neil Coyle: Complaints about my drunk behaviour possibly saved my life

Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor

Neil Coyle has said complaints about his “drunk and offensive” behaviour have “quite possibly saved my life” by compelling him to stop drinking alcohol.

The independent MP is facing a five-day suspension from the House of Commons after two drunken confrontations in a Commons bar, which included him using “abusive language with racial overtones” towards a half-Chinese journalist.

Mr Coyle 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.

Making a personal statement in response to the report into his behaviour, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark 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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