IN a world where you can be anything, be critical. In a world where women are vulnerable, be cynical. If only these mottos would gain as much traction as the facile, thought-terminating “be kind”, the latest beneficiary of which is disgraced ex-MP Neil Parish.

“When anybody apologises I always think ‘och’ and I have huge sympathy with them,” said Kate Garraway on yesterday’s Good Morning Britain. This in reference to the man whose initial response, on being asked if he’d made a mistake by watching pornography in the House of Commons, was: “I will await the findings of the inquiry.”

She added: “There was a certain sense of humanness about the apology, wasn’t there?” before making a token acknowledgement that some people might feel a little differently about the whole thing.

Her co-presenter Richard Madeley also seemed to be in a forgiving mood, saying “let’s set aside what he did for a second...” and that he was inclined to take Parish’s mea culpa at face value because “there is no suggestion that he had a track record for doing this”.

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This pair are not alone in opting to set aside what Parish did and focusing instead on the fact that he appeared to get a bit choked up on telly after putting his hands up to what he’d done … only after it was absolutely beyond doubt that he had a) done it, b) done it more than once, c) done it deliberately and d) could not keep his job as a result.

Others, in their enthusiasm to contrast Parish’s behaviour with Boris Johnson’s, have praised him for doing the “honourable thing” and suggested he should now be left in peace. “He mustn’t be hounded to suicide” tweeted an anti-corruption campaigner who goes by Mr Ethical. Hounding? Parish kept his own story trending by spinning a laughable yarn about a web search for tractors – and dressed up as a farmer to make sure there was a comic visual to match. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Many have been careful to preface any disapproval of Parish’s behaviour with words to the effect that what he does in the privacy of his own home is up to him – because god forbid anyone appear prudish or anti-pornography per se. What he does at home isn’t relevant to what he’s done at work, so why bother mentioning it at all?

Westminster insiders drop heavy hints that if you think this is bad, just wait until you find out what dirt they’ve got on countless other MPs. Not wanting to admit they may have missed a scoop, they suggest that because they never got wind of Parish being an unsavoury character, he probably wasn’t one.

Sorry, but just how naive is the British public? I hate to shatter people’s illusions about what goes on in the heads of many middle-aged, grandfatherly-looking men, but I must inform you that it isn’t exclusively plans for fishing trips, details of upcoming cricket fixtures, and thoughts of where their next fix of Werther’s Originals is coming from.

It’s become a very unfashionable thing to say, but you cannot tell by looking at a man whether he wishes women harm, and you can’t always tell from his behaviour whether he is indulging a paraphilia. This is a key aspect of why women are uncomfortable with any man potentially being uncritically accepted as a woman just going about “her” business by, for example, undressing in a women’s communal changing room.

Male journalists might find it appropriate to dismiss or even laugh off Parish’s behaviour, but I doubt the women who saw what he was doing found it funny. He may claim he had no intention to intimidate anyone with his actions, but he would say that, wouldn’t he?

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In the days after Netflix released Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story, two friends in their twenties messaged me with similar questions. A polite paraphrase of these would be “what the heck were you all thinking?” Here was a man who – quite aside from being extremely odd, and devoid of discernible charm – was repeatedly telling people that he was a villain. Yet we, the British public, kept watching him on TV and collectively laughing along. He revelled in the attention, making references to what he had done, joking about getting away with things and repeating the quip “my case is up next Thursday” over and over again.

We’d like to think we’re smarter now – or at least that his jokes about deviant sexual behaviour would no longer be found funny – but are we kidding ourselves?

The likes of Garraway and Madeley may believe that to err is human and to forgive divine, but it’s also bloody idiotic to stick your head in the sand and pretend that men who involve non-consenting bystanders in their sexual behaviour must have just made a daft mistake. Would it shock them to learn that flashers aren’t just silly billies who forgot to put pants on before they left the house?

Let’s not “set aside” what Parish did. It might be easier to believe he must be mortified by his “moment of madness” as opposed to revelling in being caught in the transgressive act, but that doesn’t mean it’s more likely to be true.