Man has sex with a woman shocker!

The only 'shame' in The Sun's Jason Manford exposé was the decision to run with it, says Steve Bennett

Since you have good taste in reading material – you’re here, aren’t you? – you might be unaware that Jason Manford has made the front page of The Sun today, right, with what the paper’s calling a ‘sex shame’.

The comic has got form in this area, of course, exchanging dirty texts and pictures with women back in the day when he was still married and still the family-friendly host of BBC One’s primetime One Show.

But the shame this time around? He had consensual sex with a woman.

Well, it was in a Travelodge, so maybe that’s it.

There was no affair – both the comic, now divorced, and the woman, Kimberley Spauls (size 20 and 38G boobs the paper helpfully informs us) – were single at the time. And nothing out of the ordinary for grown adults seemed to have happened.

The Sun’s story, splashed over two inside pages, tries to make play of the fact Manford’s ‘girlfriend was pregnant at the time’, though the truth is they had split up – and not even the mum-to-be knew she was pregnant then.

Certainly as tabloid exposés go, it’s no Watergate.

Manford seems to have been foolish in his handling the kiss-and-tell, reportedly calling Spauls yesterday and pleading with her to deny everything, even offering to trump whatever the paper was paying her to spill the beans. But his desperate behaviour in the tight spot that The Sun itself put him in hardly seems justification for what can loosely be called the ‘story’.

Generally, I don’t have much sympathy for the broader aims of the Hacked Off campaign. Yes, journalists should act within the limits of the law unless exceptional public interest can be proved – and the phone-hacking trials show that a cavalier attitude to that obvious truth is, very belatedly, being taken seriously. But if you don’t want your affair and drug-taking splashed all over the papers, maybe don’t cheat on your partners or take drugs, rather than pushing for a punitive law that will hide all manner of serious wrongdoing. MPs stupid enough to fall into obvious honeytraps probably deserve all they get.

But The Sun does nobody any favours with reporting like this. As Manford’s spokesman says at the end of the story ‘Jason was single when he met this single woman. He is now in a very happy relationship.’

‘Invasion of privacy’ is often bandied about by people who want to keep their dirty secrets secret. But this seems to be the real thing.

‘I’m over, my career is over,’ Manford is reported to have said to the woman after he learned that the story was going to break. That’s not true. But you have to wonder what The Sun’s justification in running with it was.

Published: 9 Nov 2014

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