IF you thought “ambushed by a cake” was a lame excuse, just wait till you hear what Neil Parish MP came up with to explain why he watched pornography at work.

His browsing history started off innocently enough but somehow, he says, he was transported from a website about tractors to an explicit adult site with a similar name. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland to sell you…

After days of speculation and outrage, Neil Parish eventually announced that he would be resigning as a Member of Parliament.

At this point, it doesn’t actually matter how credible his “tractors were my gateway drug” excuse is.

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The fact is, he watched porn at work, in full view of others, on at least two occasions that we know of. Some have pointed out he must be incredibly stupid to not realise that others might see what he was doing.

Men who watch porn in public places are involving other people in their fantasy without their consent. So I’d be surprised if the discomfort of his female colleagues who witnessed his behaviour wasn’t part of the thrill for him.

This episode has been revealing in a number of ways. The usual approach of this current Tory government to accusations of wrongdoing is threefold: deny, deflect, delay.

When the facts are shown and they can no longer deny, they swiftly move on to telling the public that the wrongdoing they are angry about isn’t as important as whatever the big issue of the day is. When that doesn’t work, we see toothless inquiries, investigations and internal reviews announced that kick the wrongdoing into the long grass.

Neil Parish resigned before that spin machine whirred into life. The fact that the Conservative Party initially refused to name and suspend the whip from Neil Parish speaks volumes about where their priorities lie.

Spoiler alert: they don’t lie with the female Tory MPs who have voiced concerns about sexism and sexual harassment within the Parliament and party.

Some of them have suggested the problem has got worse under the leadership of Boris Johnson, citing the culture of rule-breaking that has flourished on his watch. Three serving Cabinet ministers are currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct after being report to the parliamentary watchdog.

At PMQs last week, Boris Johnson said, in an answer to a question from Caroline Lucas, that sexual harassment was a sackable offence. We’ll wait and see whether that pledge is one of the rare few that he intends to fulfil. I won’t hold my breath.

Whenever the institutional sexism and misogyny of Westminster is in the spotlight, we hear theories about what has gone wrong and what needs to change.

At the weekend, the Conservative Party chairman said that after the next election, at least half of their MPs must be women. This is one measure that they believe might help tackle the boys’ club vibe of the party.

Resident eejit Michael Fabricant was quick to dismiss the idea. He said he doesn’t support quotas to ensure gender balance because candidates should be elected on “merit” alone. Otherwise, he says, you might end up with women in parliament who aren’t up to the job.

It’s a bold statement to make considering the main defence of the law-breaking Prime Minister is that he was too stupid to understand the rules he wrote.

Gender balance across the Parliament might indeed help to dilute the stench of macho entitlement. And other suggestions, such as making it easier for women to make complaints and tackling the drinking culture on the estate might make a bit of a difference too.

But the only thing that will actually stamp out the rampant misogyny and harassment at Westminster is whips – from all parties – taking a zero-tolerance approach with offenders. If female MPs and staffers are warning each other about which MPs to avoid then the system isn’t working.

If – as has been reported this week – a certain minister has to be given a “minder” at boozy events to make sure he behaves himself, then it’s clear they are tackling the problem the wrong way around.

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Westminster does have a culture problem. The politics of self-preservation have meant that for too long, parties would rather excuse the bad behaviour of their representatives than tackle it. There are signs that the mood is shifting.

To be clear: I don’t for one second believe that Boris Johnson is so horrified by Neil Parish watching porn in the chamber that he has now devoted himself to the feminist cause. He will only ever take action that aligns with his own self-interest.

But his female colleagues are angry at party inaction on this issue and they have made it clear they aren’t going to put up with it any longer.

And at this perilous stage of his premiership, Boris Johnson really can’t afford to make any new enemies.