A senior member of the British government has been forced to admit that he was involved in a sexual relationship with a woman who worked as a professional dominatrix.
John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, added that he did not know about the woman's occupation when they were together, and that he ended the relationship as soon as he was made aware of her job.
He was forced to admit on Tuesday night that he had been in a relationship with the woman, whom he said he met through an online dating website, after campaigners for media accountability claimed that British newspapers were covering up the story as a means to exert control over Whittingdale. As Minister for Culture and Media, Whittingdale, is responsible for media regulation, and implementation of the controversial Leveson report.
The campaigners allege that numerous newspaper investigations into the story were ‘shut down’ and that Whittingdale had “questions to answer over whether he exposed himself to blackmail over his relationship with a dominatrix.”
Chris Bryant, who was Labour's shadow culture secretary until last year, said: "It seems the press were quite deliberately holding a sword of Damocles over John Whittingdale. He has a perfect right to a private life but as soon as he knew this he should have withdrawn from all regulation of the press."
Whittingdale released a statement late last night describing the "old story" as "embarrassing".
Mr Whittingdale said: "Between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through Match.com. She was a similar age and lived close to me. At no time did she give me any indication of 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."
Downing Street said Mr Whittingdale, "is a single man entitled to a private life" and that he had the full confidence of David Cameron.
However, Daily Beast contributor Peter Jukes argued the revelations were "well below the normal privacy bar" by newspeapers who had pictures, adding, "The fact Whittingdale subscribed to conservative 'family values' groups easily tipped it over the bar set by IPSO's Editor's Code."
Jukes also arugues that the fact he he took "his dominatrix on an undeclared parliamentary freebie" - Mr Whittingdale attended the MTV awards in Amsterdam with the woman as part of his job - would usually have pushed the story "over the bar for most of the broadsheets too.”
But Tom Newton-Dunn, political editor of The Sun, told Sky News: "We didn't publish the story because, quite frankly, there is no story.
"He is a single man, a divorced man - you can pretty much have a relationship with anyone you want.
"It gets complicated when you introduce the conspiracy theory.
"He is Culture Secretary... and he presides over media regulation and the reason why the media has not been touching story (according to conspiracy theorists) is because we are all too terrified to publish nasty stories about him because he will pass nasty laws against us.
"Quite frankly, that is rot."
Before becoming Culture Secretary, Mr Whittingdale served as chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee for a decade.
His promotion to the Cabinet came as a shock to many in the Conservative Party.