The former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten has finally admitted to himself for the first time that he is gay – 13 years after a sex scandal destroyed his political career.
Mark Oaten was exposed by the now defunct Sunday newspaper News Of The World in 2006 after it emerged he’d been having group encounters with male sex workers. At the time he was a married father, and a potential candidate for the Liberal Democrat leadership.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett, he said he is now living with a male partner.
He also revealed he has recently given up his Liberal Democrat membership, calling the party’s situation “a tragedy” and saying leader Vince Cable had “failed”.
And he says “I can’t believe I’m saying this”, but he won’t rule out becoming an MP again in the future.
On his sexuality, Mr Oaten said: “I’m gay now and I’m comfortable with being gay and I’m clear about my sexuality.
“I haven’t actually said it until now in an interview. It’s something which is difficult for me to say. It still feels difficult for me to say, but increasingly I’m comfortable and happy about that, and feel in a comfortable place to say that to you today. But it’s been a long journey to get me to that point. I clearly had sexual doubts earlier on in my life, but I was very, very happily married and really, really enjoyed being a dad and married as well.
“It’s a real contradiction. You know I think there are a lot of people out there who have this contradiction….And for people listening to this, if they are in that situation I would say, address it sooner rather than later if you can, because I’m so much happier now.”
Mr Oaten said his family and friends had been very supportive.
“It’s something my friends have known about now, my girls know about, and my mum – those key people – but it’s only been in the last year, year-and-a-half. I’ve got a partner, we live together. I have a group of great gay friends. I can be who I am now. I just wish I’d done it earlier.”
Mr Oaten said the working environment at Westminster which drove him to seek out sex workers was “a horrid culture, and I believe it’s still the same.”
He said: “You are in an environment where you can buy drink really cheap, you are in an environment where you are away from home and your family, and you are in this kind of bubble where you are able to get away with anything you want. You are conscious and aware of colleagues having affairs. It is a climate where people call you ‘Sir’. I would almost describe Westminster as this seedy, bullying men’s club.”
On the current state of the Liberal Democrat party, Mr Oaten said it’s time for Vince Cable to step aside: “He’s failed and the party’s failed. I think Jo Swinson is good and great. I think frankly, Vince, it’s time for you to step down and let somebody new come through.
“But my problem is with the structure of the political parties at the moment. I don’t think that Jo or anybody else can revive politics from the establishment. It needs now to be revived from the non-establishment, and post Brexit it’s got to happen. And that excites me, that interests me.”
When asked by Emma Barnett if he could see himself becoming an MP again, if a new party came along, Mr Oaten said:
“I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, because I actually said I would never ever stand for anything again … but I don’t know, I’m not sure… It’s still part of me in the past. I’ve buried it for 10 years. I don’t feel comfortable with what’s going on in politics at the moment. If something and fresh came along in the future, who knows?”
The full interview with Mark Oaten will broadcast on The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday 14 January 2019 from 10am.