The Curious Incident Of The Unreported Tory Sex Scandal

John Whittingdale MP, culture secretary and Chairman of the Common's Culture, Media and Sport select committee, has had what must have been an uncomfortable time this week, as a result of action by some of the subjects of his ministerial responsibilities. The media has, some years on, now reported on a story about his private life. The story of the media's non-reporting of this story however, took some time to be dragged into print.

What's the story, morning glory?

Unravelling this tangled tale, it appears that four newspapers - the Sunday People, Mail on Sunday, The Sun and The Independent - were all approached with a story of how Mr Whittingdale had had a brief relationship with - unbeknown to him at the time - a woman who was a sex worker. All investigated the details, but then declined to run any articles on the subject, despite the albeit private, but potentially explosive ingredients.

The real story here therefore, is not the fact of this relationship, but why it wasn't published at the time, and why it has been now.

As a nation of curtain twitchers, we like nothing more than to enjoy our tea and toast on a Sunday morning over tabloid tales of sexual shenanigans. Add a Tory MP and a dominatrix into the mix, and you'd think it was a breakfast classic happily served up by the Red Tops. Yet the story remained - surprisingly - off the media menu while many similar privacy-invading stories are dished up daily.

To publish or not to publish

Why was this? Because the media bloodhound and watchdog of society - as the press is known - was at the time in the dog-house, licking its wounds after a kicking by Leveson who had conducted his investigation into press ethics following the phone hacking scandal concerning the now defunct News of the World? Or because it had responsibly weighed the rights of privacy against the rights to free speech and - unusually - found the former the winner? Or was it due to a cynical and self-serving self-censorship given that the MP in question was Chairman of the Common's Culture, Media and Sport select committee at the time, and is now responsible for media regulation?

Single man dates woman is not a tabloid story. Tory MP dates dominatrix is. But is it sufficiently in the public interest to expose private, sexual matters? The expectation of public facing and public serving politicians is not as strong as that which private civilians enjoy, and the courts...

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