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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Oaten explains decision to quit
Mark Oaten
Mr Oaten will celebrate his wedding anniversary in the Far East
Scandal-hit Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten has spoken out about his decision to stand down from Parliament at the next general election.

The 42-year-old said he was much happier now than he was six months ago when his relationship with a male prostitute was revealed.

But he was now looking forward to doing other things with his life now he had decided not to remain an MP.

He said his Winchester constituency was being broken up in any case.

'Mulling over'

Mr Oaten was forced to quit as Lib Dem home affairs spokesman after the revelations about his private life.

Days earlier married Mr Oaten quit his party's leadership contest citing a lack of support from colleagues.

I didn't have the guts to get off the treadmill
Mark Oaten

On Wednesday, he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme about his decision to step down as an MP.

"This is something Belinda, my wife, and I have been mulling over for some time," he said.

"We have come to a conclusion and rather than just keeping that to ourselves it seemed a good time to let that be known."

Mr Oaten described his 12 years as a "rollercoaster" with some "very public downs" and it was now time to do something else.

The headlines about his private life had been a factor in his decision to leave politics, he said.

"That taught me that I have made some mistakes, it taught me to look carefully at work-life balance issues and taught me that being in the public gaze about my private life was really hurtful for Belinda and the girls," he said.

'Lacked courage'

Mr Oaten said he had regrets about his political career and felt "awful" for the damage he had caused his party nationally and in Winchester.

He said: "I didn't have the guts to get off the treadmill, I mean what on earth was I doing running for leader?

"Why was I wrapped up in this whole Westminster world when actually it was something I was finding difficult and uncomfortable.

"People find it hard to believe but I'm much happier now six months on."

Mr Oaten said he would miss Lib Dem conference for the first time this autumn and would instead be in the Far East celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife.

"It will be the first time celebrating our wedding anniversary without it having to be in Bournemouth, Brighton or Blackpool," he added.

Mr Oaten was seen as one of the Liberal Democrats' fastest rising stars, but he was forced to quit frontline politics after the News of the World published details of his relationship with a rent boy.

Both Mr Oaten and his wife, who have two children, have given interviews about how they have tried to rebuild their lives following the revelations.

In an article for the Sunday Times, Mr Oaten said his fall from grace was prompted by a mid-life crisis brought on by his rapid hair loss.

Profile: Mark Oaten
25 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Oaten tells of 'mid-life crisis'
07 May 06 |  UK Politics
Oaten wife tells of her 'horror'
26 Apr 06 |  UK Politics
Oaten apologises over sex scandal
02 Feb 06 |  UK Politics

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