Mark Oaten

The Rt Hon. Mark Oaten

LeaderCharles Kennedy
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Political partyLiberal Democrats



Mark Oaten (born 8 March 1964, Watford) is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom, and Member of Parliament for the Winchester constituency. Oaten served as the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, before resigning that position on 21 January, 2006 after a sex scandal involving male prostitutes was uncovered by the News of the World tabloid newspaper. Oaten has confirmed he will not be standing for re-election at the next general election.[1]

Before Parliament

Oaten was educated at Queens School, Bushey and Hatfield Polytechnic.[2] Before entering Parliament, Oaten had been a councillor and was employed as a lobbyist by various Westminster public affairs companies. He was leader of the SDP group on Watford Borough Council. He stood for the Watford seat at the 1992 election and polled 10,231 votes, coming third.[3]

Election to Parliament

He won the Winchester seat in the 1997 election with a majority of 2, but his election was later declared void by the Election Court. The defeated Conservative former MP Gerry Malone successfully challenged the election on the basis of an established precedent which voided the result where it had been affected by a decision not to count ballot papers which had not been properly stamped.[3]

This decision caused the 1997 Winchester by-election at which Malone fought once again to capture the seat. However, many felt that Malone had behaved as a 'poor loser' and Oaten won with a majority of 21,556, gaining 68% of the vote. He held the seat in the 2001 election, with a majority of 9,634 (with a 54.6% share of the vote), and again in 2005, although his majority dropped to 7,473 (a 50.6% share of the vote).

Oaten's politics

Oaten was a member of the Advisory Board of the Liberal Future think tank until it was wound up in 2005 and one of the contributors to the (2004). Within the party Oaten has been called a moderniser, in the sense that he is keen to emphasise economic liberalism and to prevent the Liberal Democrats being sidelined as a 'party of the left'. However as the party's principal home affairs spokesman, he also championed the rights of asylum seekers and civil liberties, and has claimed to want to reunite all the strands of liberalism, and not elevate one above the others. Thus Oaten's supporters would describe him as being on the libertarian wing of the Liberal Democrats, rather than the 'right' wing.

He also popularised the term 'tough liberalism', which was widely reported as a shift towards more punitive law and order measures and stricter immigration policy. However, this seems to be a mischaracterisation of Oaten's initial meaning, which was to indicate a non-interventionist approach emphasising personal responsibility, which could be characterised as 'cruel to be kind', and to emphasise willingness to stand up to reactionary public opinion on social policy issues.

He has been a Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Learning & Skills in the Criminal Justice System since September 2005.

Liberal Democrat leadership contest 2006

On January 10 2006, Oaten declared that he would be a candidate in the leadership election to replace Charles Kennedy, standing on an agenda of making liberalism relevant to the twenty first century. He was widely rumoured to be Kennedy's favoured successor, but his campaign failed to gain momentum. On January 18 he became embroiled in a row about the leaking of an email.[4]

On January 19, Oaten withdrew from the contest, having failed to attract enough support from within the parliamentary party; his sole backers were Lembit Opik MP and Baroness Ludford.

He concluded his withdrawal statement with the words "Next week I'll be giving some thought to where I go politically and giving my thoughts on the future of the Party."

Scandal and resignation

On January 21 2006, Oaten resigned from the Liberal Democrat front bench when it was revealed by the News of the World that he had had a relationship with a 23-year-old male prostitute between summer 2004 and February 2005. The newspaper alleges that Oaten had had 'three-in-a-bed' sex with two male prostitutes.[5]. Rumours about this were reported in Private Eye[6] and an opinion piece in the Telegraph.[7]

Shortly after the scandal broke, Oaten's wife of 13 years, Belinda, fled to their neighbours' house and then left the country taking their two daughters on a skiing holiday to Austria. While it was initially alleged by The Daily Mirror newspaper that she plans to divorce him[8] more recent reports on the BBC News website (as of 27th April 2006) state that their relationship is improving due to weekly counselling sessions. A poll for the Southern Daily Echo revealed 58% of 1,000 respondents believed he should resign his seat.[9] On January 29, the News of the World revealed that one of the male prostitutes involved was 25-year-old Tomasz (pronounced like English "Tomash"), a Polish former ballet dancer. The newspaper quotes Tomasz as saying "he was very specific about something special he wanted us to do to him. It's a gross act of humiliation which only a few punters ask for. It's quite revolting really." Oaten's wife, Belinda, was interviewed in Hello magazine in April 2006, while Oaten himself gave an explanation for his actions in an essay in The Sunday Times[10] in which he claimed a "mid-life crisis" and the stress of going bald were partly responsible for his actions.

Mark Oaten is standing down from Parliament at the next election.

Life after politics

Mark Oaten has professed a desire to either write a book or work in the field of international development following his departure from the House of Commons.

External links

Notes and references

1. ^ Lib Dem Oaten to stand down as MP, BBC News, 25 July 2006
2. ^ Liberal Democrats: Who's Who.
3. ^ "Ask Aristotle: Mark Oaten." The Guardian.
4. ^ Tania Branigan, 2006. "Oaten to pull out of Lib Dem leadership race." The Guardian.
5. ^ Marc Shoffman, 2006. "Lib Dem MP resigns over "gay" relationship" Pink News.
6. ^ "Street of Shame", Private Eye, No. 1151, 3rd February - 16 February 2006
7. ^ The Nut and the Hammer
8. ^ Bob Roberts, 2006. "Shamed Lib-Dem Mark Oaten 'dumped by wife'", The Mirror.
9. ^ Tania Branigan, 2006. "Pressure on Oaten to quit as MP" The Guardian.
10. ^ [1]


Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801–present)
Preceded by
Gerry Malone
Member of Parliament for Winchester
1997 – present
Incumbent
Charles Peter Kennedy (born 25 November 1959) is a British politician.

From 9 August 1999 until 7 January 2006, he was the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third largest political party in the United Kingdom.
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Liberal Democrats

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Founded 1988
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Winchester is a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.
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Male prostitution is the sale of sexual services by a male prostitute (commonly called a "hustler" or "rentboy"; see below for other expressions) with either male or female clients.
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Type Weekly newspaper
Format Tabloid


Owner News Group Newspapers
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Watford is a town and district in Hertfordshire, England, situated 21 miles (34 km) north-west of London and within the bounds of the M25 motorway. The borough lies just to the north of Greater London.
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Peter Gerald Malone, known as Gerry Malone, (born 21 July 1950) is a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party politician who was an MP 1983-1987 and 1992-1997.
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The Member of Parliament for Winchester, Hampshire, England, Mark Oaten, (Liberal Democrat) was unseated on an electoral petition on October 6, 1997. Mr Oaten had originally been declared elected with a majority of two votes after many recounts and haggling over spoilt ballots.
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