Mellor Resignation: Press accused of mobilising new hypocrisy
Friday 25 September 1992
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.'
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Malaysia Airlines: Search for true identity of passengers with stolen passports launched as terrorism concern grows
Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
International Women’s Day: 'When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch' - feminist quotes from female icons to inspire you
Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Dear 'The Sun', breast cancer isn't sexy
- 4 Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
- 5 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...