Mark Oaten: Life is much better since I resigned my job in shame

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The Independent Online

Mark Oaten MP pulled out of the race to be Liberal Democrat leader after a newspaper revealed his affair with a male prostitute. After a short separation he is back living with his wife Belinda and their two children, and getting used to being a backbencher. This diary is his first piece since the resignation.


When you wake up and there are no photographers or tabloid press outside the house, it's a good start to the day. In fact, after a horrid few months, things are calming down and I am starting to tackle the classic work/life balance nightmares so many people get into. The old regime involved running around the house with cold toast in one hand and battling with the dog to recover school bags and shoes with the other, followed by an environmentally damaging car dash in time to hear the school bell going. The new regime is a healthy, no-chocolate-in-sight nutty cereal that tastes like cardboard, followed by a spoonful of Manuka honey (which costs £15 and frankly for that price I hope the honey is literally hand-picked from the bees' knees!). Green tea at the office is followed by a quick haircut, then an assessment at the gym. The drive to Westminster is much more relaxed than in the old days: then it would have been endless calls and press briefings. Today the big votes are on identity cards. The late-night votes drive me mad - what other system allows key decisions to be taken when most normal people are crashed out on the sofa?


It's been a real pleasure to focus on constituency issues in more detail: a dentist tying to get an NHS contract, parents trying to get a new drug for their child, a planning application for a new shop. Dashing around dealing with Home Affairs issues, I often felt bad at not giving all my energy to real-life cases rather than endless debates. How do cabinet ministers balance running the country and a constituency?

In the afternoon I chat with some journalists for the first time since I resigned. Rather like an elephant in the room. It's tricky to discuss politics without mention of what went on in my private life. And although I will not talk publicly, it does help to deal with some of the nonsense that has been written and explain to those I trust the real whys and whats of events. People expect me to be low and depressed. In fact I am learning how to relax and value spending much more time with my family and friends. With that in mind, rather than staying in London, I battle the late rush hour and make it home in time to put the kids to bed and do something normal like watch television. After Jimmy's Farm, it's off to bed dreaming of running my own farm, or at the very least a set-up like The Good Life.


I stay behind after the education debate, and for only the second time in eight years present a petition to Parliament. To my delight this involves no walking backwards, or bowing to the Speaker six times, but simply standing up and saying that the petition is signed by 1,000 people and calls for asylum-seekers to be allowed to work.


The Commons debates ID cards, terrorism and immigration. I don't miss being Home Affairs spokesman, or the expectations people had of me one bit; and today reminds me why. I found the whole terrorism legislation very hard to deal with and struggled with my conscience as we opposed the Government. In my private meetings with Charles Clarke and Tony Blair I was taken with their real concern to do everything they could to stop a future terror attack, so taking a stand against aspects of this was never clear-cut for me.


Last night was taken up with constituency work in Winchester. Today I visit an old people's home, talk to students at a sixth-form college, then a surgery in a small village hall, followed by a visit to three speeding traffic sites, making sure that I arrive on time and without going more than 30 mph! The week started well with Yakult and honey, but as Bridget Jones might say, the week ends with gym 1, runs 0, Twix bars 5!