Former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten has finally admitted to himself that he is gay – 13 years after a sex scandal destroyed his political career.
Mr Oaten dramatically quit frontline politics after it was revealed he had been having group encounters with male escorts.
The then married father and potential candidate for the Liberal Democrat leadership said at the time the affair was an “error of judgement”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett, Mr Oaten said: “I’m gay now and I’m comfortable with being gay and I’m clear about my sexuality.
“I haven’t actually said it until now in an interview.”
The former politician, who lives with his male partner added: “It’s something which is difficult for me to say.”
Mr Oaten said the working environment at Westminster which drove him to seek out sex workers was “a horrid culture, and I believe it’s still the same”.
He said: “You are in an environment where you can buy drink really cheap, you are in an environment where you are away from home and your family, and you are in this kind of bubble where you are able to get away with anything you want.
“You are conscious and aware of colleagues having affairs.
“It is a climate where people call you ‘Sir’.
“I would almost describe Westminster as this seedy, bullying men’s club.”
In 2017 UK politics was hit by a series of revelations of inappropriate behaviour by MPs and those who work for them and with them.
A report by Dame Laura Cox revealed more than 200 parliamentary staffers claimed to have been groped and propositioned by male MPs
“And you know, you start off coming into Westminster thinking ‘I’m not like this’, and I’m absolutely convinced that many people with good intentions end up being part of this rather nasty atmosphere around Westminster.
“And, it does have an impact on your life, on you and your marriage. I wasn’t strong enough to resist that.”
Mr Oaten said his family and friends had been very supportive. “It’s something my friends have known about now, my girls know about, and my mum – those key people – but it’s only been in the last year, year-and-a-half. I’ve got a partner, we live together. I have a group of great gay friends. I can be who I am now. I just wish I’d done it earlier.”
Although he says he has not ruled out standing for Parliament again he has left the Lib Dems calling the party’s situation “a tragedy” and saying leader Vince Cable had “failed”