Certain sections of the press love a whiff of a sex scandal concerning a politician. It certainly goes with the territory in public life. We are all guilty of fuelling this: when the sex scandal breaks out in a rival party, we throw a party. We love to see the ritual humiliation when it happens to an Archer or a Blunkett. But when it’s our own party in the firing line, we see the cynicism of it all. The Mark Oaten affair didn’t take place recently, in fact it’s nearly a year since it ended (when the rent boy recognised Oaten from the TV). So was it the rent boy or the NOTW that decided that this would be a good time to blow the story? I’m not condoning what Oaten did – far from it – but I think readers should know that for every scandal that breaks out into the press, there are others bubbling under the surface on all sides of the house. Some will, perhaps, never come out – others are waiting for their day to come. Oaten has certainly paid the price for his foolishness – both in his marriage and in his career. Those in public life should remember that their personal standards are likely to be scrutinised at any time – and the higher they seek to climb the ladder – the greater the scrutiny.
Which brings me on to Simon Hughes. I wouldn’t normally lower myself to buying the Sun but I considered buying one yesterday. However, I didn’t because of the outrageously homophobic way in which the Sun presented the story. Using terms like ‘another Limp-Dem’ and ‘pillow biting’ serves only to fuel an attitude that gay and bi-sexual people are in some way inferior to the rest of us. The Simon Hughes confession is categorically not any kind of scandal. Simon has been guilty of no more than seeking to keep his private life private in a world that, as the Sun illustrates for us, is still prejudiced against anyone who isn’t straight – or for that matter, anyone who isn’t married with 2.4 children by the time they are thirty. Simon Hughes is a hard working, articulate and committed Liberal who has served this party and his constituents well. He was faced regular questions in high-profile media interviews about ‘why he isn’t married’. Why he isn’t married is none of anyone else’s business. His treatment by the Sun is despicable.