13 Apr 2016

John Whittingdale under pressure over prostitute revelations

Labour is demanding that Culture Secretary John Whittingdale withdraws from decisions about press regulation after confirming he had a relationship with a sex worker.

Mr Whittingdale, who is single, said he had been unware of the woman’s occupation and ended the relationship when he found out someone was trying to sell the story to the press.

He is facing calls to stand aside from press regulation decisions on the basis that his previous relationship, which took place before he became a cabinet minister, may have made him vulnerable to media pressure.

Four newspapers were aware of the relationship, which lasted from August 2013 to February 2014, but did not report it.

Hacked Off, which campaigns against press intrusion into people’s private lives, said that given Mr Whittingdale’s media role, the newspapers should have revealed his relationship.


Founder Brian Cathcart said Mr Whittingdale, who was chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee when he was having the relationship, had been “compromised”.

He said: “He knew the press were on to him and he didn’t tell the Prime Minister, and we would like to know more about how much he knew. He knew that at least one newspaper had this story. Was he approached by other newspapers? Did he ever wonder why they didn’t run the story?”

Mr Cathcart said he thought the newspapers could have been planning to put “pressure on him” in future. “Lo and behold, we see that he has made three really important decisions reversing government policy, which work entirely in the favour of the press and, frankly, in my view at least, contrary to the public.”

One of Mr Whittingdale’s responsibilities is a new regulatory framework for the press following the Leveson inquiry. Shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle said he should step aside from this role.

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott told the BBC Today programme he should not be involved in press regulation because of his relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s media operation.


Mr Whittingdale said he had match the sex worker through Match.com.

“At no time did she give me any indication of her real occupation and I only discovered this when I was made aware that someone was trying to sell a story about me to tabloid newspapers. As soon as I discovered, I ended the relationship.

“This is an old story which was a bit embarrassing at the time. The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as Culture Secretary.”

Downing Street said Mr Whittingdale was “a single man who is entitled to a private life” and the Prime Minister “has full confidence in him”.