Leading Article: Paying for sex should not finish a politician

THE HOUNDING of Joe Ashton, the Labour MP who has said he will stand down at the next election, is a disgrace. It reflects badly on parts of the tabloid press, on parts of the police force and, above all, on the unhealthy relationship between the two. In a society which took the privacy of the individual seriously, Mr Ashton's presence on the premises of a massage parlour raided by the police would not have been reported. He had not committed a crime, and there can be no argument that paying for sex affects someone's ability to serve the public.

Just as depressing is the way the story was told, with all its Fifties fixtures and fittings. The phrase "massage parlour" sounds old-fashioned enough, but the use of the adjective "Thai" is a sad comment on the way an entire nation has become synonymous in Britain with paid-for sex. Is it too much to hope that public indifference will drive this kind of story, with its mid-century puritan feel, off the front pages in the next century?