I know, I know, we are supposed to be very po-faced about sordid sex scandals. Nevertheless, the fact is they are just great fun... that is why our down market rags are so full of them.
The Brits adore the lovely juicy details (and who cares whether its is true that David Mellor wore his Chelsea strip when "frolicking" with Antonia da Sancha or not?). These things run to a formula- the hard faced journalist teasing out the details from the young ingenue (or rent boy), doubtless under the baleful eye of Max Clifford. The paper then making the absurd and utterly unjustified claim of "the public have a right to know" followed by the complete embarrassment and shame of the protagonist- mostly utterly deserved. There then follows the tearful and shocked family- whose lives, of course, will never be the same again.
Well, after Aitken and the whips, Archer and the spotty back, Major and Edwina Currie, Harvey Proctor and the rent boys, Piers Merchant and the poetry and all the other delightful and frankly hilarious comic book downfalls of the Tories, the Lib Dems have a proper sex scandal of our very own. So what? The rent boy and Max Clifford have taken their cut, Mark Oaten has been well and truly mugged and he and his wife now have to try to pick up the pieces. Sure, it is not a victimless crime, but Oaten knew he had been recognized and yet still stood as leader. "Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad".
I expect that the tabloids will now stake out the Lib Dems as much as they can, thinking that the actions of the inadequate render the party somehow unelectable. What rubbish! The Daily Telegraph this morning was a study in sanctimonious drivel. The fact is that most of us love these scandals, but we all of us know that in the cold light of day there are very few people who would like to confess every desire that they have ever acted on, let alone ever felt. The whole business of sex is coupled with the most basic emotions, including shame. OK, so crapping on a rent boy is fairly, shall we say, outre, but we love these scandals not because they are really so very shocking, but because must of us recognize that there are things in ourselves that we may not care to have splashed all over the News of the World. This is why we love the juicy details- even the great and good are not so very good. Perhaps too, in our heart of hearts, we think, well whatever shame we may have felt, he- and it usually is a he- must feel worse, and we take some comfort from that.
So the embarrassed discomfiture of Mark Oaten has briefly added to the gaity of the nation- but the po-faced hypocrites who think that this has anything to do with the Liberal Democrats should really get out a bit more. Ideas are stronger things than the all too human failings of the flesh, and our ideas are stronger than Mr. Cameron's or Mr. Brown's.