Former Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten has spoken about his sexuality for the first time, 13 years after he was outed by a tabloid newspaper.
Oaten served as the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman from 2003 until 2006, when he was outed by the News of the World newspaper and forced to resign over allegations he hired male prostitutes.
The former MP for Winchester has now broken his silence on the sex scandal, coming out as gay on his own terms for the first time.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett, Oaten said he is now living with a male partner.
Mark Oaten: I’m comfortable with being gay
On his sexuality, Mr Oaten said: “I’m gay now and I’m comfortable with being gay and I’m clear about my sexuality.
“It’s been a long journey to get me to that point.”
— Mark Oaten
“I haven’t actually said it until now in an interview. It’s something which is difficult for me to say.
“It still feels difficult for me to say, but increasingly I’m comfortable and happy about that, and feel in a comfortable place to say that to you today. But it’s been a long journey to get me to that point.”
He added: “I clearly had sexual doubts earlier on in my life, but I was very, very happily married and really, really enjoyed being a dad and married as well.
“It’s a real contradiction. You know I think there are a lot of people out there who have this contradiction….and for people listening to this, if they are in that situation I would say, address it sooner rather than later if you can, because I’m so much happier now.”
The MP added that it is only recently, more than a decade later, that he felt truly able to come out to those closest to him.
He said: “It’s something my friends have known about now, my girls know about, and my mum… [for] the last year, year-and-a-half. I’ve got a partner, we live together.
“I have a group of great gay friends. It’s great, I can be who I am now. I just wish I’d done it earlier.”
The former MP was married at the time the scandal broke, but is now divorced from ex-wife Belinda, who he describes as his “best friend.”
Mark Oaten would consider a return to politics
Oaten described the breaking of the scandal as a “storm” that left him in need of counselling.
He said: “There was no chance for me to manage or handle how to tell people about this. It was there. It was about to be published in a national newspaper. There was no time to absorb this, or to tell your loved ones, ‘I’m sorry.’
“Anybody going through this now, please talk to somebody.”
In 2013, it emerged that Oaten was a victim of phone hacking during the scandal.
The MP, who is no longer a member of the Liberal Democrats, hinted that he would consider entering politics again in future.
He said: “I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, because I actually said I would never ever stand for anything again … but I don’t know, I’m not sure. It’s still part of me in the past. I’ve buried it for 10 years.
“I don’t feel comfortable with what’s going on in politics at the moment. If something and fresh came along in the future, who knows?”
The full interview with Mark Oaten will broadcast on The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live on January 14 from 10am.