John Whittingdale sex worker scandal: Hacked Off annoyed with newspapers for doing exactly what they were told to do

We can’t work out if anyone did the right thing here, to be honest with you

Dating a sex worker isn’t a crime, but it is something that would, rightly or wrongly, harm the reputation of a politician.

So if the press were to discover a politician were doing exactly that, it might be something the voters would want to know.

However, things get a little murky when that politician is in charge of press regulation, and the newspapers in question decide not to run the story, which happened in the case of culture secretary John Whittingdale.

“Between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through Match.com,” Whittingdale said in a statement.

“She was a similar age and lived close to me. At no time did she give me any indication of her real occupation and I only discovered this when I was made aware that someone was trying to sell a story about me to tabloid newspapers.

“As soon as I discovered, I ended the relationship. The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as culture secretary.”

Chris Bryant, former shadow culture secretary, told the BBC: “It seems the press were quite deliberately holding a sword of Damocles over John Whittingdale.

“He has a perfect right to a private life but as soon as he knew this he should have withdrawn from all regulation of the press.”

Press regulation lobbyers Hacked Off, who normally campaign for privacy and less intrusion into the personal lives of public figures said the newspapers should have outed Whittingdale’s relationship, in a bizarre twist.

Brian Cathcart, a spokesman for Hacked Off said: “This is a story about why the newspapers didn’t cover this. To suggest, in the week that we see the newspapers baying to cover a story about a celebrity’s private life that judges tell them they have no right to cover, they would be too scrupulous to tell a story about a cabinet minister that any judge in the country would tell them they have a right to, is just absurd.”

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