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 And here is why...
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
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

LSA Level 3 required in Caerphilly

£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?