The papers that spiked the story about Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and his relationship with a sex worker all said the reason they failed to publish had nothing to do with his chairing the DCMS Select Committee, or his being the Minister overseeing potential changes to the way the press is regulated, but was solely down to there being no public interest justification. That excuse is now in tatters.noted that there were “several public interest factors - namely Whittingdale’s contradictory moral stance, his voting record in the Commons, the Mosley lecture, and questions over his expenses - all justified publication". When the Mail On Sunday, another title to pass first time round, ran another aspect of Whittingdale’s dalliances last weekend, they also found potentially horrendous security implications.
And now there is another public interest justification for running the Whittingdale story: he has been placed under investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over the non-disclosure of his trip to the 2013 MTV Europe awards in Amsterdam. He was accompanied on that trip by the sex worker whose relationship with him sparked all the investigations that were so mysteriously later spiked.
As the Guardian has told, commissioner “Kathryn Hudson has launched an investigation, her spokeswoman said on Friday, after Labour MP Neil Coyle complained Whittingdale should have declared the trip because of the cost of the flights, hotel bill and entertainment, which were covered by MTV … They would need to be declared if they had exceeded 1% of his salary, which is the threshold under parliamentary rules”.
Whitto’s reasoning for non-disclosure was explained by one of those “sources close to him”, who claimed “John inquired about the cost of the trip from the organiser and it was advised it was £534.82. John was told this was under the threshold and so he did not need to declare it”. If they flew Business Class and stayed in a moderately upmarket hotel, the thought enters that the cost may have been rather more than that.
What is worse is that most of the rest of the press pack only woke up to the investigation into Whitto’s trip after the Guardian had published (the Mail’s online version is HERE). Only the Mirror (HERE) appears to have run with it yesterday afternoon. The Sun, a staunch defender of the Culture Secretary, didn’t run the story at all.
Why so coy, press people? They said there was no public interest defence. There is now.