... and foolish Mark Oaten.
I call Mark Oaten foolish, not from any sense of moral superiority (because I would have a great deal of difficulty in maintaining such a stance), or because I think what he is alleged to have done is necessarily wrong. No, I call him foolish because he has behaved with an extreme lack of caution and political judgement in recent weeks.
Lots of married men, and some married women, 'pay' for sex in one way or another. Some pay for it, cash down, no questions asked. Some pay for it by buying the other party expensive gifts, taking them for lavish and expensive meals, or even setting them up in good quality apartments and providing them with a monthly allowance - quite a lot of men, and I don't doubt some women too, do some or all of those things. So let's quit the unnecessary moralising, shall we? Some kinds of what is commonly known as 'prostitution' are pretty distasteful, of course, but the fact that Mark Oaten has used a male, as distinct from a female, prostitute is completely beside the point in my view.
However, we don't live in a world which shares my rather relaxed view of these things. Specially when it concerns people who for one reason or another are in the public eye, there are always complete sh**s such as Rebekah Wade, or various other muck-raking journalists, who are prepared to further their commercial ends by exposing the foibles of others, even when their own lives have certain rather unsavoury elements, if the stories I have read of domestic violence in her own household have any validity. So Mark Oaten, who only a few weeks ago launched his campaign for leadership of the Liberal Democrats, must surely have known that his own personal life had elements which would be a tremendous scoop for a newspaper after a sensational story; that is what is so foolish about Mark Oaten's recent actions - I'd go so far as to call them completely crazy, when he had this potential Sword of Damocles hanging over him. It seems that his own constituency LibDem party is being supportive at present, but as can be seen from that same article this view is not universally shared even amongst LibDem voters.
So we've dealt with the 'foolishness' aspect, the lack of judgement if you will. Now we come to the self-deception which Mr Oaten seems to have exhibited, possibly for very many years. Infidelity is not a good thing to indulge in, I think, but Mark Oaten is not the first man (or woman) to have erred in this way - and is probably not the only one even amongst current Members of Parliament. If it is true that he had a prolonged relationship with a male, not just a one night stand, then it is probable that he has bisexual or homosexual tendencies which I would be very surprised to learn have only become apparent in very recent times. Lots of people have become married in the hope of sublimating their own sexual feelings, usually because they find it easier to conform with what is traditionally expected - I have no doubt that some men (or women) succeed in having reasonably happy and fulfilled lives having made this compromise, but it is my view that many in this situation end up by becoming deeply unhappy and may well end up devastating the person they are married to.
Self-acceptance is really what I am talking about. It took me a great many years fully to accept my own homosexuality, although in my case I very fortunately avoided the trap of allowing myself to fall in love with a woman (something that might easily have happened on one occasion in my early 20s) in the hope that I could 'change', and the even more tragic outcome, for her and for me, of getting married and condemning the two of us to a marriage which might have started out happy, but I am certain would have caused the two of us, and probably any children, great pain over succeeding years.
I hope Mark Oaten and his wife can work out between them some way forward which will allow their lives, and those of their children, to return to some kind of tranquility - happiness will probably take somewaht longer. I hope that they will make for themselves the time, and be allowed the privacy, to work out their problems. In the long term I suspect that this incident will have little effect on LibDem electoral prospects nationally - I didn't expect to see a LibDem government in my lifetime before and I don't expect it now.