Tory Conference ruined for Clarke

I pity Mark Clarke, the Conservative candidate for Tooting.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

His former lover referred to him in the Mail on Sunday this week as a cad, in an article better described as a 'shag and shout' than a 'kiss and tell'.

A nurse called Sarah Gill was given a double-page spread in which to vent her frustrations, which included lurid allegations including Clarke's supposedly rampant sexual appetite.

Poor Clarke has been seen around the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham looking glum and sticking to non-alcoholic drinks; and I couldn't help giving him some advice. Tough it out - and if there is more to come, ride that too because once it is public, it can never be exposed again. Do not let them deselect you as the candidate. That would be far more newsworthy and to be frank, he has probably done no more wrong than about half the MPs in Parliament.

But Clarke must stop bragging about his sexual activity, not least to his girlfriends. And whether or not he chooses to remain an epic shagger, he must find something worthwhile to do in his spare time that appears a little more altruistic. He may always be a shagger but he doesn't have to be defined by it.

Lobby journalists are generally bemused at how this tale made a national paper, let alone merited two pages. But the Mail on Sunday's Simon Walters has understood the new paradigm left by the Max Mosley privacy case this summer. Fleet Street was astounded that Mosley won that case, which destroyed the public interest justification for publishing the sex lives of celebrities.

Walters has understood that there is still legitimate interest in the personal lives of politicians. And this has changed the economics of political news. Dirt in politics was cheap because it was provided by the target's enemies. Now papers will be more willing to pay cash for political sleaze stories as their celebrity stories fail to mount the public interest hurdle.

So watch out politicians, Mark Clarke is just the start. You're next.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey.

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