British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Politician Mark Oaten, an up-and-coming Liberal Democrat, was forced to relinquish his seat in the British parliament when it was revealed that he had been linked with male prostitutes and participated in gay orgies. He attributed his behavior to a midlife crisis instigated by the aging process, including the rapid loss of his hair.

Summary of Event

In January of 2006, the British tabloid News of the World published a story about the sexual peccadilloes of forty-one-year-old Mark Oaten, a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament (MP) from the constituency of Winchester, England. The titillating account described his six-month liaison with a “rent boy,” the English term for a male prostitute. Identified only as Tomasz, the latter was allegedly a former ballet dancer from Poland. [kw]Gay-Sex Orgy, British Politician Resigns After (Jan. 21, 2006) News of the World, The Homosexuality;in opera[opera] Oaten, Mark Tomasz Oaten, Belinda News of the World, The Homosexuality;in opera[opera] Oaten, Mark Tomasz Oaten, Belinda [g]Europe;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [g]England;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [c]Prostitution;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [c]Government;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [c]Politics;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [c]Sex;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560] [c]Public morals;Jan. 21, 2006: British Politician Resigns After Gay-Sex Orgy[03560]

It was reported that Tomasz also occasionally participated in orgies with the MP along with at least two other rent boys. The article cited “a bizarre sex act too revolting to describe” as one of Oaten’s predilections. This bizarre act was later determined to involve coprophilia, a rather extreme form of sexual gratification or humiliation, or both. He also had a predilection for having the rent boys dress in soccer uniforms.

Oaten was an ambitious up-and-coming politician when the scandal broke. Born in the small town of Watford, England, he worked in public relations and as a lobbyist before entering politics when he was elected to the Watford District Council. At the age of twenty-two, he was one of the youngest town council members in England. His eight-year service apparently gave him a taste for higher office. In 1992, he ran unsuccessfully for Parliament, but it was only a temporary setback. Five years later he won a seat for the Liberal Democrats by the very narrowest of margins—two votes—by unseating the Conservative incumbent in his new constituency of Winchester, the home of the famous cathedral.

Not unexpectedly, such a narrow voting margin was challenged, and the election was rerun. This time Oaten triumphed by the convincing margin of more than twenty-one thousand votes. His political career seemed assured. He was reelected in 2001 and 2005, albeit by decreasing margins of victory, and was considered one of the future leading lights of his party’s right wing. Among his posts were those as party spokesperson for disabilities and membership on the foreign affairs and defense team.

Ultimately, Oaten became the chairman of the Parliamentary Liberal Democrats. He served in other capacities as well before becoming the party’s shadow home secretary, a sign of the esteem in which the party held him. In late 2005, the alcoholism of the Liberal Democrats’ leader, Charles Kennedy, Kennedy, Charles was revealed and the party fell into crisis. Oaten, although publicly supporting Kennedy, was seen as maneuvering to succeed him behind the scenes.

In January, 2006, Oaten declared himself in the running for the position of party leader. If successful he would be in line to be prime minister should his perennially also-ran party ever form a government. Just a week later, Oaten withdrew from his leadership quest amid increasing rumors about his private life, although he claimed he withdrew because he did not have adequate support from his party. On January 21 the gathering storm broke with the publication of the News of the World story about Oaten’s gay sex life.

The married father of two daughters, Oaten had used his seemingly staid “family man” image to his political advantage. He was now reviled as a hypocrite. Additionally, he had previously criticized a judge who had been fired for cavorting with rent boys. Although he would confess only to “errors in judgment,” Oaten later blamed his misfortune on a midlife crisis, examples of which were the rapid loss of his hair and turning forty years of age. He did not admit to being gay even though he apparently had been a habitué of male prostitutes for at least one and one-half years before being discovered. One of the prostitutes was quoted as saying that the MP was “a very troubled man leading a very dangerous double life.”

For a while after the scandal began developing, Oaten had to weather being the object of scatological jokes. One joke asked how he and Charles Kennedy were alike. The punch line (referring to one’s assumed sexual practice and the other’s alcoholism) was “They both like to get s—t-faced in the evening.” Oaten also was derided a few months after the scandal for apparently trading in on his notoriety by appearing on a daytime-television fitness program.

Oaten apparently rose above his problems and, even though no longer in government, he staged a modest comeback. He became active in prison reform circles and became a member of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. He also lectured on politics at Oxford University and at universities in the United States. Oaten’s well-received book, Coalition: The Politics and Personalities of Coalition Government from 1850, was published in 2007.

Impact

Oaten’s own political career lay in ruins. He resigned his party posts and said he would not run again for his Parliament seat in the next election; he stood very little chance of winning, according to polling data. His disgrace affected his party as well; the so-called “Oaten effect” was blamed for his party’s loss of the majority on the Winchester Council.

This scandal, coming just two weeks after party leader Kennedy, Charles Kennedy’s resignation, greatly harmed the Liberal Democrats. Their ratings in the polls dropped to the lowest level in eight years, and it was reported that the second-place Conservative Party was hoping to gain some defectors from its ranks.

On a personal level, Oaten’s marriage of thirteen years was severely affected, and his wife vented her anguish in public. Unlike many political wives in the United States whose husbands have been involved in scandal—such as the spouse of former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer—Oaten’s wife, Belinda, at first declined to play the role of the supportive spouse. According to Oaten himself, his statuesque wife threw her wedding rings at him and struck him several times. To journalists she declared that his betrayal had plunged her into “unimaginable horror.” They did reconcile later, but not until after Belinda Oaten had taken the children and left home for a period of time.

The gay community in Great Britain was somewhat energized by this case. Even though Oaten did not actually come out as gay, or even as bisexual, at least one politically active gay organization in England challenged his party. The group stated that other members of the gay-friendly Liberal Democrats should now take the opportunity to go public with their own homosexuality. News of the World, The Homosexuality;in opera[opera] Oaten, Mark Tomasz Oaten, Belinda

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Mark Oaten to Withdraw from Lib Dem Leader Race.” Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2006. Just before the story broke about Mark Oaten’s sexual peccadilloes, he announced he was withdrawing from the race to succeed Charles Kennedy as the Liberal Democrat Party leader.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Oaten, Mark. Coalition: The Politics and Personalities of Coalition Government from 1850. Petersfield, England: Harriman House, 2007. Political lessons to be learned from the activities of Great Britain’s coalition governments beginning with the prime ministry of Benjamin Disraeli to the first years of the twenty-first century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Parris, Matthew. “Oaten May Have Taken a Stupid Risk, but That Doesn’t Mean He’s Stupid.” The Spectator, January 28, 2006. Analysis of why politicians take foolhardy risks. The author concludes that their personalities lend themselves to acts of daring and risk-taking and the belief that they will never be caught.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thurlbeck, Neville. “Lib-Dem Oaten’s Three-in-Bed-Rent-Boy Shame.” News of the World, January 21, 2006. The account of Mark Oaten’s months-long relationship with a male prostitute and, on occasion, other rent boys, and a veiled but censorious account of the “degrading” sexual practices in which they engaged.

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