You know they all know: Mosley reveals pain of exposure to MPs

From sadomasochism to fascism, Formula One boss opens his heart to Commons' Culture Select Committee
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Indy Politics

The motorsport boss Max Mosley has been permanently robbed of his dignity after newspaper stories revealed that he attended sadomasochistic "parties", he said yesterday. Calling for a privacy law to be introduced in Britain, the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) told a group of MPs that he was "shocked, annoyed, angry and outraged" when he saw the News of the World story.

Mr Mosley, who successfully sued over the story last year which wrongly suggested the party had Nazi overtones, said that the episode had a "terrible, terrible" impact on him and his family and that the exposure of the embarrassing details about his private life still affected him. "No matter how long I live or where in the world I am, people know about it," he told members of the Commons' Culture Select Committee. "No one would ever be rude enough to make an unpleasant joke. You go into a restaurant and nobody says anything, but you know they all know."

He said the experience was like coming home to find your home burgled, adding: "If someone takes all your goods and money, you've got some chance of replacing it. If someone takes away your dignity, you will never replace it."

The 68-year-old told MPs that he was not ashamed of his visits to the sadomasochistic orgies, which he said he had attended for 45 years. He also denied that he had been reckless for thinking his appearance at the parties would stay out of the news.

He described the "S&M world" as very secretive, and the years he had spent involved in the scene undetected had made him confident his involvement would not be found out. "It's not even talked about outside the circles," he said. "You would never tell someone who was not part of that world."

He also revealed that despite winning his legal battle with the paper, he had been left with an outstanding bill for £30,000 even after the paper was forced to pay a large slice of his £500,000 legal fees and £60,000 in damages. "To me it was worth it, but an awful lot of people would say, 'If, in addition to getting everything repeated again, I'm going to have a big bill, I'm not going to do it'," he said.

The power of the internet also meant that he would forever be connected online to the term "Nazi" when his name is typed into online search engines, he told the committee, which is investigating press standards.

Mr Mosley may yet launch a new libel action against the paper over allegations that he lied about the nature of the parties, but told the committee he was worried about being perceived as "money-grabbing or vindictive". His decision will depend on whether he decides to run again for the FIA presidency this summer. "If I had the time, I would relish it," he said. "Let's wait and see."

He called for a wholesale restructuring of Britain's privacy laws, so that newspapers were forced to give the targets of stories time to have a judge block their publication. He also backed the introduction of a new privacy law, which could impose unlimited fines on papers guilty of breaching it.

Mr Mosley, who is the son of the 1930s fascist leader Oswald Mosley, said the revelations had destroyed his attempts to rebuild the reputation of his family. But, in a statement that shocked MPs, he said he could see what had motivated his father's far-right beliefs, though he did not agree with them.

"When I was young, I always stuck up for him. You always have sympathy for your parents and I see why he did what he did; it does not mean I agree with him," he said, suggesting that his father "overdid it". Nigel Evans, the Tory MP for Ribble Valley, said Mr Mosley had "taken understatement to a new level".

'Media damaged search for Madeleine'

The father of Madeleine McCann has said the media coverage of his daughter's disappearance may have permanently damaged the possibility of finding her. Gerry McCann, whose three-year-old daughter vanished from the family's apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007, accused the media of treating the child as a commodity. He told MPs on the Culture Media and Sport Committee that stories implying Madeleine was dead or that her parents were implicated in her disappearance may have stopped someone holding vital information from coming forward.

"Our family have been the focus of some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting in the history of the press," he said. "To be thrust from being on holiday one minute into the middle of an international media storm was very, very difficult.

"To see a headline insinuating you were involved in your daughter's disappearance was incredibly upsetting."