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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 20:26 GMT
Oaten 'still has Lib Dem future'
Mark Oaten
Mr Oaten quit as the Lib Dems' home affairs spokesman
Mark Oaten has a future with the Lib Dems despite resigning as home affairs spokesman over a sex scandal, party president Simon Hughes has said.

Mr Oaten quit after being exposed by the News of the World for having a relationship with a male prostitute.

Mr Hughes, a contender for the party leadership, said his colleague did not have to resign as an MP.

Lembit Opik, who ran the short-lived Oaten leadership campaign, said Mr Oaten should be given "space".

'Serve constituents'

Mr Hughes said: "He's stood down from the front bench; that is the price he's paid. I don't think it follows that you stand down as an MP.

"If you look back in history, many people have given up office but they have continued to serve their constituents very well.

"I would urge Mark to continue to do that for the time being. I hope that people will understand, I hope forgive, and allow him to move on."

Earlier, Lib Dem peer Lord McNally told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Mr Oaten should now concentrate on his wife and family, before considering his future political career.

Lord McNally cited the example of Tory minister John Profumo, who was forced to quit his job for lying over his affair with call girl Christine Keeler.

He said Mr Profumo, who worked for charities in the East End of London, had "made a real contribution to the betterment of humanity" afterwards.

'Family first'

Father-of-two Mr Oaten resigned as home affairs spokesman, following newspaper claims that he had a relationship with a 23-year-old man.

The Winchester MP, 41, has apologised to his family and appealed for privacy.

Mr Oaten's resignation from the party front bench came just weeks after Mr Kennedy quit as party leader after confessing to alcohol problems.

Sir Menzies Campbell, leader since Mr Kennedy's resignation, and fellow leadership candidate Chris Huhne both said the party was big enough to move on.

In a statement, Mr Oaten, who quit the leadership race on Thursday, apologised for "errors of judgement in personal behaviour".

When standing down as a Lib Dem leadership challenger on Thursday, Mr Oaten said the remaining three contenders all "had much more support" among MPs.

His withdrawal left Sir Menzies, Mr Huhne and Simon Hughes as the remaining candidates.

Mr Oaten's deputy, Alistair Carmichael, has taken over temporarily as home affairs spokesman.


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