By Sarah Lagan
Disgraced MP Mark Oaten turned to his local paper, the Hampshire Chronicle, to tell his story following revelations he had a relationship with a rent-boy.
The former Liberal Democrat leadership contender, who resigned as home affairs spokesman days after the News of the World exposed he had illegally paid for the sexual services of a male prostitute over a six month period, contacted the paper of his Winchester constituency to reveal how he ended the relationship and was now trying to save his marriage.
The Chronicle’s chief reporter Warwick Payne travelled with photographer Terry Bond to his Westminster office for the face-to-face interview with Oaten who refused to talk to the press pack outside.
Chronicle editor Keith Redbourn said: “We’ve always had a good working relationship with Mark, and we were determined to provide a fair and balanced viewpoint of the accusations.
Oaten said he wanted to talk to the Chronicle for that very reason.
“In my editorial the previous week, the Chronicle challenged him to face his constituents, and talk to his local paper, and he did just that.”
The exclusive was splashed on the front page, with a more in-depth question-and-answer session on page 3.
Oaten said he understood how his constituents might “feel let down and shocked about what they had read”. He talked about how he wanted to concentrate on his constituency and apologised for his mistakes. Although he had been heartened by the support he received locally and nationally he would not be drawn on whether he would contend for the next general election but did say he did not wish to take on another front bench role.
Redbourn added: “This was a classic example of a respected local paper scooping the nationals and broadcast media because of our community roots.
“Everyone on the team is to be congratulated for giving us the biggest exclusive we’ve had for many a long day.”