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Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a British politician and Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Southwark and Bermondsey. He has twice run unsuccessfully for the leadership of the party and was its candidate for Mayor of London in 2004. He is currently Liberal Democrat Shadow Attorney General and spokesman for Constitutional Affairs and has been President of the Liberal Democrats since September 1, 2004. The party president chairs a number of party committees and also represents the party at official functions.

Early life and pre-parliamentary careerEdit

Hughes was born in Cheshire, England and partly brought up in Wales. He attended Christ College, Brecon, Selwyn College, Cambridge where he graduated with a 2:1 in Law and the College of Europe. Hughes was called to the bar (Inner Temple) in 1974. He moved to Bermondsey in 1981.


Hughes was first elected to Parliament in the Bermondsey by-election of February 24, 1983. The byelection was described by Gay News as "the dirtiest and most notorious byelection in British political history" because of the slurs against the character of the Labour candidate and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell by various opposition campaigners. The Liberal Campaign leaflet described Hughes as the "straight choice". Hughes won the seat with 57.7% of the vote. He apologised for the campaign in 2006 during the same few days that he revealed his own homosexual experiences and said that he is in fact bisexual.[1] Mr Hughes told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "I hope that there will never be that sort of campaign again. I have never been comfortable about the whole of that campaign, as Peter knows, and I said that to him in the past . . . Where there were things that were inappropriate or wrong, I apologise for that."[2]

Hughes gained a poor election result in North Southwark & Bermondsey in the 2005 general election. He held the seat, but the Labour Party saw a 5.9% swing in their favour — the biggest swing to Labour anywhere in the UK. When interviewed on election night television by Jeremy Paxman, Hughes suggested that the fall in his vote might reflect the unpopularity of Southwark Borough Council, which has been controlled by the Liberal Democrats since 2002.

Political and parliamentary careerEdit

As part of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, Hughes was spokesman for the environment from 1983 to 1988. Along with the majority of Liberals, he joined the newly founded Liberal Democrats in 1988, acting as spokesman for education until 1992, then the environment again until 1994, then health until 1997, and then home affairs until 2003. He was the Liberal Democrat candidate in the 2004 Mayor of London elections and came in third with 15.22% of the first preference vote.

On his proudest achievement in parliament since 1997: "A young man called Jamie Robe was kicked to death in Rotherhithe in August 1998. Using my community links I helped break the wall of silence, encourage witnesses to give evidence, and secure convictions." Hughes had to receive police protection following death threats linked to his advocacy for the family of Jamie Robe. The episode became an ITV1 drama, with actor Robin Kermode portraying Hughes.

Among other party offices, Hughes is Vice-President of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum. He is on record as being a supporter of a Devolved English Parliament.

Leadership election 2006Edit

On January 12, 2006 Hughes announced his candidacy in the Leadership Election triggered by the resignation of Charles Kennedy. He had initially delayed any announcement while carrying out Presidential responsibilities in drawing up the timetable for the contest.

Speaking to reporters he said: "What I have to offer is my ambition, enthusiasm and passion.... What I have to offer is my experience over many years in Parliament and campaigning around the country to motivate people to join us." [3]

After revelation about Hughes' long rumoured sexuality[4], which came four days after Mark Oaten resigned from the Liberal Democrat front bench and gave up on the leadership race, Peter Tatchell confirmed his view that, despite the 1983 Bermondsey incidents: "I hope Simon is elected as party leader because of all the contenders he is the most progressive on human rights, social justice and environmental issues."[5]

Mr Hughes apologised after his outing by The Sun, saying "I gave a reply that wasn't untrue but was clearly misleading and I apologise."[6]. He also admitted during the Question Time leadership candidate debate on BBC1 on 9 February that he hadn't handled the matter very well.[7] Andreas Whittam Smith characterized Mr Hughes as a "shameless liar," and said he profoundly hoped that he will fail in his attempt to lead the Liberal Democrats.[8]

Simon Hughes campaigned under the rubric of 'Freedom, fairness and sustainability.'[9] His manifesto was also released in pdf format, and was available from his campaign website[10]. Of the three candidates in the contest, he was generally considered the most leftwing. For example, he said in his manifesto that "Britain has become less, not more fair, in recent years. Few people would have expected the Tories to deliver a fair society. But more might have hoped that a Labour government would deliver fairness. The reality has been bitterly disappointing. Inequalities in health have increased under Labour, not decreased."

The campaign was marked by a series of hustings around the UK. One was held in Edinburgh[11] where Hughes stressed his human rights and Green friendly background; another in Manchester[12], where Chris Huhne rebutted criticism from Sir Menzies Campbell that his call for a hike in petrol duty would harm people living in rural areas dependent on using their cars. The final hustings was held in London on February 23 2006[13].

He said he was proud to have played some part in the success of the LibDems across the country.[14]

In the final result, Hughes came third in the ballot of party members - with 12,081 votes - behind Campbell and Huhne.

Personal lifeEdit

Outside politics Hughes is a noted supporter of Millwall football club, which is based in his constituency. He also enjoys theatre, and is an active Christian. His brother died from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of accidental inhalation of the fumes from a poorly maintained gas appliance, prompting Hughes to introduce legislation requiring landlords to have annual Gas Safety Checks.

Hughes has never married, although in an interview with The Telegraph in 2006, he said he had been turned down by 'several women'. He also denied persistent rumours about his sexuality, when asked if he was gay, saying "The answer is no, as it happens, but if it was the case, which it isn't, I hope that it would not be an issue." Two days later, in an interview [1] with The Independent he again denied that he was gay, and later in an interview with The Guardian he repeated the denial [2].

However, on January 26, 2006, after 'The Sun' newspaper told him that they had proof that he had used a gay chat service known as 'Man Talk' Hughes admitted that in the past he had had relationships with both women and men.[3]. He said he had revealed the truth when it became apparent that not doing so was not stopping rumours '[I] was overly defensive last week. That was a mistake. I did it and I was trying to make sure that even in the circumstances of potentially standing as leader of the party — or for high office — that private life was private. It was clear even afterwards that the question from colleagues and the Press and elsewhere was not going to go away.' [4]. He said his sexuality should not prevent him becoming leader, saying, "It would be very sad if people who have always been single or who are homosexual felt that their sexuality prevented them from holding high office. I hope that my party and the great majority of the British public would agree with that."

"It is not just me. There are lots of people who have tried to keep their private lives private. I wasn’t just doing it for me but for many others who are in the same boat," said Mr Hughes.

Hughes seems to have made the classic non-denial denial. Referring to his change from previous denials about his sexuality and recent Liberal Democrat difficulties he said, "I hope that any colleague in any party at any time who might not have been entirely honest for good reason or who may have made a mistake is accepted back at the right time." and also "I gave a reply that wasn't untrue but was clearly misleading. I apologise." He confirmed to that he is bisexual.

In an interview broadcast on the same day on BBC Radio 5 Live, he was asked if he considered quitting the race for leadership of his party, he replied: “Of course. I considered also whether I should stand in the first place. It is a balance I have always had to take."

Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of The Sun, said Mr Hughes had decided to speak about his sexuality only after being confronted with "pretty incontrovertible" evidence (in the form of credit card records[citation needed]) that he had phoned the gay chat line ManTalk.

Hughes has been accused of hypocrisy due to his involvement in the notoriously homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell during the by-election in Bermondsey in 1983, though candidates in by-elections have very little control of the campaign as the party's management controls the campaign directly.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. "Simon Hughes: "I’m bisexual"", Pink News, 2006-01-26.  It's not clear from Benjamin Cohen's cited article whether in fact Simon Hughes or his unnamed spokesman (or perhaps both) declared for bisexuality. At the end of paragraph 2 it is stated This morning, Mr Hughes confirmed to that he is "bisexual," whereas the last paragraph of the article states This morning, Simon Hughes’ spokesman confirmed to that Mr Hughes is bisexual. Therefore, it is likely that Mr Hughes will claim that he did not lie when he told the Independent that he was not gay.
  2. "Simon Hughes apologises for homophobic smears in 1983", Pink News, 2006-01-24. 
  3. "Hughes enters Lib Dem leader race", BBC News, 2006-01-12. 
  4. "Hands up if you think the Lib Dems have lost the plot", The Scotsman, 2006-01-29.  The cited article quotes an unnamed Hughes volunteer on the Bermondsey by-election campaign in 1983: "We were all happy to see the kicking [Peter] Tatchell took over his sexuality, when every one of us knew very well that Simon was gay, too."
  5. "Lib Dem candidate gets gay backing", Pink News, 2006-01-17.  Peter Tatchell reaffirmed his opinion on the leadership election after Hughes's outing by The Sun. He said "it is time to forgive and move on. ....I am on the left of the Green Party. I don't support the Lib Dems, but if I was a member I would vote for Simon as leader"
  6. "Gay revelation 'is leader test'", BBC News, 2006-01-26. 
  7. "Question Time", BBC, 2006-02-09. 
  8. "Lies, damned lies and Simon Hughes", The Independent, 2006-01-30.  page 31
  9. "Freedom", Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign, 2006-02-08. 
  10. "Simon Hughes Leadership Themes", Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign, 2006-02-08. 
  11. "MPs' voting rights under debate", Press Association, 2006-02-19.  See also Stephen Glenn's Linlithgow Journal
  12. "Lib Dem leadership contenders battle for the green vote", The Independent, 2006-02-21. 
  13. "Lib Dem Leadership Election 2006, Last chance to meet the candidates - An evening with The Independent", The Independent, 2006-02-11.  See also Suz Blog, Lib Dem leadership contenders clash on tax in final pitch for votes, I get by with a little help from my Friends (Meeting House), Lib dem leadership: London hustings, Linda's London Hustings, The Hustings of all Hustings, Lib Dem contenders in final bid
  14. "Simon Hughes’ speech to London hustings", Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign, 2006-02-23. 

External links Edit

Wikipedialogo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Simon Hughes. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.. As with LGBT Info, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

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