Simon Hughes has failed in his second attempt to secure the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third largest political party.
Mr Hughes, the 54 year old MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey previously came second to Charles Kennedy in the 1999 leadership election, following the retirement of Paddy Ashdown.
Initially considered a favourite to win the 2006 contest, Mr Hughes’s campaign was knocked off its tracks by a forced admission of bisexuality.
Following an investigation into his private life, Mr Hughes felt forced to admit: “both homosexual and heterosexual relationships in the past.” In the interview he admitted using a gay telephone chat service, he later confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk that he was “bisexual.”
“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 would not bar him from running for the leadership.
However, it was not to be. Dogged by allegations that he misled the public into believing that he was straight, his campaign lacked momentum.
“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.
“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, said that it was time to “forgive and forget.” He even backed Mr Hughes that he was : “the best of the Lib Dem leadership candidates. If I was a party member, he’d get my vote.”
Last month a PinkNews.co.uk study revealed that despite claims of hypocrisy from gay rights groups, almost 80% of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community would prefer Simon Hughes as Liberal Democrat leader.
Following the declaration of Sir Menzies Campbell, Mr Hughes paid tribute to previous leader Charles Kennedy and said new leader Sir Menzies will help the party go from strength to strength “He has my complete and unqualified support Liberal democracy will be in safe hands. He will help bring a government that Britain needs
Following the result, Mr Hughes claimed that the revelations of his sexuality “made no difference to his campaign.”