Why Fleet Street would rather report on injunction celebrity's threesome than Whittingdale's romantic past

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Fleet Street's reluctance to cover Culture Secretary John Whittingdale's romantic past and its eagerness to expose the extra-marital shenannigans of a married "entertainer" has led some to cry foul.

But I don't believe there is a conspiracy afoot here.

At any rate, well-placed sources who have no reason to lie assure me there is not one.

The website Byline has carried a report of Whittingdale's apparent previous romantic involvement with a woman who it is alleged has worked as a dominatrix.

It says: "Whittingdale’s relationship has been an open secret in Westminster and Fleet Street circles, and major tabloid and broadsheet papers including the Mail on Sunday and The Independent have undertaken extensive investigations and written stories, only to have the stories abandoned at the last minute."

Press regulation is part of Whittingdale's brief and his Government has the power to commence the Crime and Courts Act provision which, at a stroke, would subject newspapers to huge financial penalties in libel trials if they fail to sign up to a Royal Charter-backed system of press regulation.

But Fleet Street insiders I have spoken to have justified not running the Whittingdale story because:

  • He is not married
  • He does not appear to have broken the law 
  • He has not portrayed a false image
  • He is not a figure who is high profile enough to ring many bells with readers
  • The relationship apparently finished in any case before he became a Cabinet Minister (he was chair of the Commons culture select committee at the time).

Byline reports that Whittingdale travelled to the MTV music awards in Amsterdam with his companion without declaring it in the register of members interests. If that trip was paid for by MTV then perhaps that could elevate the story to a more serious level. This was apparently the line of inquiry The Independent was pursuing before it dropped the story.

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