Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat leadership contender has finally revealed that he has had gay relationships in the past. In the past weeks, he publicly stated that he was not gay.
In an interview published this morning in the Sun, Mr Hughes admitted that he has had, “both homosexual and heterosexual relationships in the past.” In the interview he admitted using a gay telephone chat service.
“I hope that does not disqualify me from doing a good job in public life and I propose to carry on doing that with the usual enthusiasm and determination,” he added, hoping that the revelation does not bar him from continuing to stand as leader of the Lib Dems; Britain’s third party.
“It is not just me. There are lots of people who have tried to keep their private lives private.” Mr Hughes claimed, “I wasn’t just doing it for me but for many others who are in the same boat.”
Admitting that denying his sexuality in the past was wrong he said: “Perhaps in the last few days I was overly defensive over questions about my sexuality. I have always been open in the past and I regret 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.”
Mr Hughes’ sexuality has been described as a ‘Westminster secret’, openly known to some colleagues but kept from his constituents in Bermondsey, south London.
Mr Hughes won the Bermondsey by-election in 1983 against the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, then representing the Labour party in what should have been a safe seat.
During the by-election, won by Mr Hughes with one of the biggest recorded swings against Labour, the then Liberal party presented him as “the straight choice” while Mr Tatchell was smeared by political rivals.
The leadership contender 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.”
“The Liberals fought a very dirty campaign during the Bermondsey by-election,” Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk. “Some of their male canvassers went around the constituency wearing lapel stickers emblazoned with the words ‘I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell’, in a blatant bid to win the homophobic vote.”
But Mr Tatchell, now a Green Party member, revealed that it’s time to “forgive and forget,” he said: “Simon Hughes is the best of the Lib Dem leadership candidates. If I was a party member, he’d get my vote.”
In a statement to the Press Association, Mr Hughes said: “I believe that people have a right to a private life, providing that their private life does not impinge upon their public responsibilities.
“I have always maintained that someone’s sexual orientation should not be a barrier to public life in modern Britain.
“I strongly believe that people should have a right to personal privacy.
“I do not believe that anything that I have done has impinged upon my capacity to serve my constituents or fulfil any of the roles that I have sought, undertaken or am seeking for the future.”
Despite the Sun headline, “I’m Gay Too”, it remains unclear whether Mr Hughes is actually gay or bisexual.