Mellor Resignation: Press accused of mobilising new hypocrisy

DAVID MELLOR is in good company. Politicians have lived life to the full for years. It is the attitude of the public and the press that has changed.

If Mr Mellor believed his peccadilloes and personal friendships were not a resigning matter, he reckoned without a new licence in the tabloid press to report politicians' affairs - in every sense.

Reports of the free gifts may have finally finished the minister's career, but it was the lurid reports of the de Sancha affair that sparked the investigations into Mr Mellor's private business.

A few decades ago a minister's sex life might have been the subject of speculation, but rarely reported. Today the highest in the land are fair game.

'The lesson I draw from this story is that the level of hypocrisy mobilised among the populace has risen,' Bernard Williams, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, and former husband of Shirley Williams, the former Labour minister and founder of the Social Democrats, said.

'Tabloid editors have realised that politicians' personal habits sell newspapers. This was not always the case. But if we are going to start taking an interest in politicians' sexual habits, are we to expect politicians to resign all the time as a result?

'I hope not. If we did that, there would be no good politicians left. We would be stuck with the ones with no private sexual vices, the moralisers, the alcoholics and the eunuchs. What kind of Cabinet would that be?'

David Mellor's resignation set a new benchmark in political scandal. He was the first minister to try to hang on to office for so long in the teeth of public exposure of a lurid extra-marital fling.

Recent decades have produced a crop of well-publicised scandals from John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, who resigned in 1963 over his affair with Christine Keeler, through to

Cecil Parkinson, now Lord Parkinson of Cairnforth, who resigned in 1983 as Trade and Industry Secretary when it became known that Sara Keays, his secretary, was pregnant by him.

A century ago affairs were the talk of society drawing rooms but rarely became public, except in the most celebrated cases and then only because of divorce.

Charles Stuart Parnell, the leader of the Irish home rule party, was forced to resign and end a promising political career in 1890 over an affair with another man's wife.

The career of Sir Charles Dilke, a Liberal Cabinet minister seen as a potential prime minister, was also ended in 1885 by an affair with the wife of a Scottish lawyer.

At the turn of the century David Lloyd George was legendary for his womanising. Gladstone, apparently the most upright of politicians, is regarded as deeply suspect by historians for picking up prostitutes in the street.

'Things have certainly changed,' Sir Geoffrey Warnock, Professor of History at Cambridge, said. 'In the past, politicians' private lives were well known to be disreputable. But it was never mentioned in polite society.

'A scandal did not constitute a political disqualification. Everybody agreed not to make a fuss. Now things are very different because newspapers no longer suppress what goes on. People are still getting up to much the same things in their private lives. The public consequences are rather different.'

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam