Open Season on Westminster Sex Scandals
Conservative Member of Parliament Mark Menzies has resigned his position as a ministerial aide after two Sunday newspapers revealed that he had employed the services of a £250-a-night rent-boy.
Menzies is also alleged to have asked Brazilian male prostitute Rogerio Santos to supply him with methedrone, a class B drug.
He said in a statement:
“I have decided to resign as a PPS [Parliamentary Private Secretary] after a series of allegations were made against me in a Sunday newspaper. A number of these allegations are not true and I look forward to setting the record straight in due course.”
The climate of fear instilled in newspaper editors by the Leveson Inquiry has kept good old coke and hookers stories off the front pages of Sunday tabloids over the last couple of years. Threatened with harsher, more punitive press regulation, papers have steered clear of these sorts of ‘private’ life exposés.
The co-ordinated attack on press freedom by millionaire celebrities - using the façade of genuine press victims to get themselves in the negotiating room when the deal on press regulation was made - worked. But it has only been temporary.
Three years after the closure of the News of the World, two years after the end of the Leveson Inquiry, there remains a significant threat to the freedom of the press from those who want to keep their sexual peccadilloes and drug shame out of the papers. Yet newspapers are also getting braver.
The last few months have seen a tangible increase in the number of News of the World-style splashes exposing various celebrities’ wrongdoings, and now, a politician. The latter can only be a good thing for transparency in public life and making sure those in power are held to account.
What’s more, yesterday’s Menzies story is by no means unique.
Sex scandals involving gay MPs are the most common type of rumour going around Westminster at the moment. It would certainly come as no surprise if several other MPs were to be exposed for using rent-boys, and there are also stories doing the rounds of politicians using gay saunas and cheating on their civil partners with other men.
Who will be the first gay married MP to get divorced from his husband after an extra-marital affair is exposed by a Sunday paper, I wonder?
In the next few weeks we will have a verdict in the trial of Nigel Evans, the former House of Commons deputy speaker who is accused of rape and a series of other sexual offences against young men. Whatever the outcome - and of course he is innocent until proven guilty - the following weeks will be very awkward for a number of other MPs.
Both male and female victims of sexual harassment at the hands of politicians have a stronger voice than ever before.
Combine this with a resurgent tabloid press on the look out for political sex scandals and we have a situation where it is not the newspapers that are scared, not the victims either, but politicians themselves.
This can only be a good thing; MPs will have no choice but to change their behaviour sharpish or get out of politics altogether. It is now open season for these type of sex scandal stories. Mark Menzies will be the first of a few.