FORMER Winchester MP Mark Oaten has criticized a toxic work culture in Westminster in an interview with Andrew Marr.
Mr Oaten spoke to Andrew Marr tonight as he spoke freely about his views on the culture of ‘homey clubs’ in Parliament.
He said he saw MPs do drugs, drink, chat with the public and mistreat researchers.
He even said the behavior was so bad MPs were known to snort cocaine off their desks.
READ MORE: Former Winchester MP Mark Oaten leaves Liberal Democrats
Mr Oaten, 58, said: “I’m afraid drugs are the order of the day. I mean, I’ve known MPs in the past snorting coke off their desks, I’ve seen political editors of national newspapers snorting it off toilet seats.
“I saw widespread drug use, I saw widespread treatment by researchers that was totally unacceptable.
“I’ve seen MPs trying to address the public as they queued up to get into Prime Minister’s Question Time for a free ticket.
“I’m afraid what I saw was pretty awful. And to my shame I didn’t say it out loud then, I want to talk about it a lot more now because I think this just persists and continues.
“And if we’re seeing all these scandals, it’s partly because we’re not changing that culture at Westminster.”
Mr Oaten won the Winchester seat in the 1997 general election. He left Parliament in 2006 after being caught having contact with a male sex worker.
He was a rising star with the Liberal Democrats and said he was once touted by bookies to have a chance at leading the party.
ALSO SEE: Former Winchester MP Mark Oaten: ‘living his second life’
Mr Oaten’s comments come after a spate of scandals in Westminster, including a Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape, another caught looking at porn and another found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy to have attacked.
Mr Oaten said there are several reasons why such a toxic environment has been created and he called for better working hours and an end to late night voting to allow MPs to spend more time in their constituencies, as well as the removal of alcohol.
In an interview he said: “There are several reasons why people drink.
“I mean, people are lonely. You leave home. There is a club-friendly atmosphere, they often get bored.
“Sometimes they wait for hours for these votes. [bar], they then mingle with journalists, who often have an expense account. “Come on Fred, come on Jim, have a drink.”
“And of course that feeds gossip and stories, which is great for the newspapers. And you also have lobbyists, charities, all these professional organizations.
“Surprise, surprise, what are you doing? They have receptions every night of the week, they give MPs drinks so they can sway them, sway them with drinks, sway them with their particular policies.
“Look, I’m not apologizing. But there has to be a better way to make our democracy work. This is a toxic environment and nobody is changing it right now.”
But he warned it would be “delusional” to think party leaders banding together to make change would help.
“They don’t want to be the ones who tell their 200 or so MPs that you have to be home at six o’clock, you can’t drink on the premises,” he said.
“And actually the whips like the influence of keeping them there, the threat of having to stay until 10am on a three-line vote.
“And the alcohol also plays a role in how you control these MPs.”
The interview is available at globalplayer.com/live/lbc/uk/.
Tonight with Andrew Marr airs Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Global Player.
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