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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 14:33 GMT
Mixed reaction for disgraced MP
Mark Oaten
Mr Oaten asked for 'privacy'
Disgraced MP Mark Oaten has been given the backing of fellow Liberal Democrats but has come in for criticism from voters in his Winchester constituency.

The Lib Dem MP resigned from the party front bench following newspaper reports about an affair with a rent boy.

The leader of Winchester City Council, Liberal Democrat Sheila Campbell, said: "I think he is among friends here."

Fellow Hampshire Lib Dem MPs gave their support to Mr Oaten, but some of his constituents criticised his decisions.

The claims that the father-of-two, who quit as home affairs spokesman, had a relationship with a 23-year-old man, were made by a newspaper on Sunday.

Mr Oaten apologised to his family and friends for the "error of judgement" and appealed for privacy.

There is enormous support for him in Winchester
Sheila Campbell

Mrs Campbell said: "I find it very surprising indeed, it is not the Mark Oaten we know.

"All we can think it is some personal aberration.

"He has done the right thing in stepping down from the front bench, especially with the leadership campaign going on.

"We need to give him time to recover from this in terms of assessing his own relationship with his family.

Mrs Campbell said Mr Oaten was a "fantastically good MP," adding: "There is enormous support for him in Winchester.

'Extraordinary' decision

But some constituents criticised Mr Oaten's decision to stand for the leadership of the party.

Liberal Democrat voter Paul Parke, 43, from Winchester, said he did not think Mr Oaten should have put himself forward for the leadership because he could have damaged the party and not just himself.

He added: "I am not particularly keen on people who deceive their family.

I think it is extraordinary he put himself forward [for the leadership] under the circumstances
Camille Parke

"He has got two daughters and a wife he has been deceiving in that kind of way. He is not somebody who would get my support.

"I do not know how he thought this was not going to come out."

Mr Parke's wife Camille said: "I think it is extraordinary he put himself forward under the circumstances.

"But I do think he has been a good MP, and generally private lives belong to private people."

Emrys Davies, another Liberal Democrat voter, said: "I am just appalled someone should find themselves in that situation. I feel sorry for his family."

He said it was a "dreadful error of judgment to put himself forward for the leadership".

"Apart from that he seemed to be doing rather well as a constituency MP, and on national issues he seemed to be doing and saying a lot of sensible things.

"And when he comes back, which I hope will be quite soon in terms of public life, we will see what he has got to say and how he behaves and what he proposes to do."

'Out of the blue'

Chris Huhne, the MP for Eastleigh and Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, said: "If you're in public life and you're an MP and you take a high profile role then I'm afraid you are going to be subject to scrutiny.

"Mark has been very straightforward he's apologised to his constituency.

"I think he needs the time and the privacy to consider things with his family."

Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey, said it had "come out of the blue for Mark".

She said she hoped Mr Oaten could make a comeback and thought the party would recover from the scandal.

"These things have happened to other people in other parties, we'll live to see another day," Ms Gidley added.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A look at Mark Oaten's rise in the Liberal Democrat party



SEE ALSO:
Lib Dems need to 'draw together'
22 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Oaten quits Lib Dem leader race
19 Jan 06 |  UK Politics


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