Sunday, 17 April 2016
The curious case of the Tory minister, the dominatrix and the silent tabloids
Before he was a minister, John Whittingdale admits he had a relationship with a professional dominatrix, though he says he did not know her occupation. Normally this would be pure gold for the prurient UK tabloids. You know the kind of thing: 'Politician's shame! Full, disgusting details. Pages 2,3,4,5,6,7 etc.'
On this occasion, the tabloids took another view: 'Move along. Nothing to see here'. The explanation they offer is that they had an attack of high-mindedness. Mr Whittingdale was a single man. It was no business of anyone else who he chose to have an affair with.
Deplorably, there are some cynics who have taken a rather different view of the tabloids' motives. You see, Mr Whittingdale is no ordinary minister. He is in charge of regulation of the press and broadcasting. And from the tabloids' point of view, he has been playing a blinder. Soft-pedalling on the tightening of press regulation the Tories had promised in the wake of the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandal, and constantly sticking the boot into the BBC who the tabloids hate and fear.
For those trying to decide which explanation is right, the latest Private Eye has unearthed some interesting lines. If the tabloids really were converted to the 'people have the right to a private life' notion, it came pretty late in the day. Because three of them put a lot of effort into confirming the story before deciding not to publish. Astonishingly some people have floated the preposterous idea that the newspapers might have thought it valuable to have a journalistic Sword of Damocles hanging over Mr Whittingdale's head, just in case.
Thanks to the breaking of the story by a little-known website, any such sword has now been blunted, and funnily enough this morning the Mail on Sunday launched a fierce attack on Mr Whittingdale, accusing him of breaches of national security in his relationship with the dominatrix, and saying the Prime Minister should now be considering whether he is suitable for office.