Simon Hughes: Wikis


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Simon Hughes MP

Member of Parliament
for North Southwark and Bermondsey
Assumed office 
24 February 1983
Preceded by Bob Mellish (Bermondsey constituency)
Majority 5,406 (14.2%)

Born 17 May 1951 (1951-05-17) (age 58)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats
Alma mater Selwyn College, Cambridge, College of Europe
Religion Church of England [2]

Between the wars


Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a British politician and Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the constituency of North Southwark and Bermondsey. He currently holds the Liberal Democrat Climate Change and Energy portfolio, and was until recently President of the Liberal Democrats (the party president chairs a number of party committees and also represents the party at official functions). Hughes has twice run unsuccessfully for the leadership of the party and was its unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of London in the 2004 election.


Early life and pre-parliamentary career

Hughes was born in Cheshire, England and partly brought up in Wales. He was educated at The Cathedral School, Llandaff; Christ College, Brecon; Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a 2:1 in Law; and the College of Europe in Bruges, where he earned a postgraduate Certificate of Advanced European Studies (equivalent to a Master's degree). Hughes was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1974. He moved to Bermondsey in 1981.


Hughes was first elected to Parliament in the Bermondsey by-election of 24 February 1983. The by-election was described by Gay News as "the dirtiest and most notorious by-election 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 the election as a "straight choice", a standard campaigning slogan which was open to misinterpretation. Hughes won the seat with 57.7% of the vote. He apologised for the campaign in 2006, during the same few days revealing his own homosexual experiences, and confirming that he is bisexual after being outed by The Sun newspaper.[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]

In an apparent attempt to bring the controversy over the 1983 Bermondsey byelection to a close, Peter Tatchell formally endorsed Simon Hughes for Lib Dem leader on 25 January 2006, saying: "Simon Hughes is the best of the Lib Dem leadership candidates. If I was a party member, he'd get my vote. I want to see a stronger lead on social justice and green issues. Despite his recent drift to the centre, Simon is the contender most likely to move the Liberal Democrats in a progressive direction."

In the same statement, Tatchell added: "Since his election, Simon has redeemed himself by voting for gay equality. That's all that matters now. He should be judged on his policies, not his private life.[3]

The election result in North Southwark & Bermondsey in the 2005 general election was a poorer one for Hughes than those he had achieved in previous battles. 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 Council, which has been controlled by the Liberal Democrats since 2002.

Political and parliamentary career

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.

In 1986 he with two other MPs Archie Kirkwood MP and Michael Meadowcroft MP and the NLYL and other parts of the party produced Across the Divide: Liberal Values on Defence and Disarmament. This was the rally call that defeated the party leadership in the debate over the issue of an independent nuclear deterrent. Many believe it was Simon Hughes speech that won the day for the rebels by 23 votes.

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 has also stated that "the present constitutional arrangements for making English decisions are unacceptable and need to be changed"[4] He is a member of the left-wing Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats.[5]

Getting refugee status for Mehdi Kazemi

Simon Hughes was an important figure in the fight to grant a young gay man, Mehdi Kazemi, asylum so he would not be deported to his homeland of Iran, which had executed his boyfriend and almost certainly would have executed him. Mehdi Kazemi thanked Hughes in a letter to people across the world who fought to save his life: "I would like to say thank you to my local MP, Mr Simon Hughes, and his team who gave me the chance to live and made a miracle happen when he heard that my life was in serious danger and asked the Home Office to suspend my deportation in December 2006. I would not be here if it hadn’t been for his intervention. He was here for me then and he was here for me again when I was eventually sent back to the UK in April this year. I do not know if I would have been granted my refugee status without him." [6]

Leadership election 2006

On 12 January 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." [7]

After revelation about Hughes' long rumoured sexuality[8], 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."[9]

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."[10]. He also admitted during the Question Time leadership candidate debate on BBC1 on 9 February that he hadn't handled the matter very well.[11] Andreas Whittam Smith characterised Mr Hughes as a "shameless liar," and said he profoundly hoped that he will fail in his attempt to lead the Liberal Democrats.[12]

Simon Hughes campaigned under the rubric of 'Freedom, fairness and sustainability.'[13] His manifesto was also released in pdf format, and was available from his campaign website[14]. 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[15] where Hughes stressed his human rights and Green friendly background; another in Manchester[16], 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 23 February 2006[17].

He said he was proud to have played some part in the success of the LibDems across the country.[18]

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

In the autumn of 2007, as speculation over Ming Campbell's leadership continued, Simon Hughes publicly criticised him in a GMTV interview, stating he must do better.[19]

Personal life

Outside politics Hughes is a noted supporter of Millwall football club, which is based in his constituency. He also enjoys theatre, and once appeared in a dance troupe on Top of the Pops. He is an active Christian.

Hughes has never married, although in an interview with The Daily 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 were the case, which it isn't, I hope that it would not be an issue." Two days later, in an interview with The Independent he again denied that he was gay,[20] and later in an interview with The Guardian he repeated the denial.[21]

However, on 26 January 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.[22] 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.'[23] 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.

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 PinkNews that he is bisexual.[24]

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."

See also


  1. ^ "Simon Hughes: "I'm bisexual"". Pink News. 2006-01-26.   It is 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. ^ "Tatchell Backs Simon Hughes". Peter Tatchell. 2006-01-25.  
  4. ^ No English parliament - Falconer, BBC, 2006-03-10, accessed on 2007-10-02.
  5. ^ About us -The Beveridge Group 2007-10-28
  6. ^ [1], UK Gay News, London, 2008-05-23, accessed on 2008-05-24.
  7. ^ "Hughes enters Lib Dem leader race". BBC News. 2006-01-12. Retrieved 2010-01-04.  
  8. ^ "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."
  9. ^ "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"
  10. ^ "Gay revelation 'is leader test'". BBC News. 2006-01-26. Retrieved 2010-01-04.  
  11. ^ "Question Time". BBC. 2006-02-09. Retrieved 2010-01-04.  
  12. ^ "Lies, damned lies and Simon Hughes". The Independent. 2006-01-30.   page 31
  13. ^ "Freedom". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 2006-02-08.  
  14. ^ "Simon Hughes Leadership Themes" (PDF). Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 2006-02-08.  
  15. ^ "MPs' voting rights under debate". Press Association. 2006-02-19.   See also Stephen Glenn's Linlithgow Journal
  16. ^ "Lib Dem leadership contenders battle for the green vote". The Independent. 2006-02-21.  
  17. ^ "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
  18. ^ "Simon Hughes’ speech to London hustings". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 2006-02-23.  
  19. ^ Ming Campbell must do better
  20. ^ McSmith, Andy (16 January 2006), "I'm not gay, I'd like to get married, says Hughes", The Independent,, retrieved 2007-11-01  
  21. ^ White, Michael; Branigan, Tania (24 January 2006), "'I can win this time'", The Guardian,,,1693940,00.html, retrieved 2007-11-01  
  22. ^ "Hughes explains his gay admission", BBC, 26 January 2006,, retrieved 2007-11-01  
  23. ^ Kavanagh, Trevor (26 January 2006), "Hughes: I've had gay sex", The Sun,,,2-2006040287,00.html, retrieved 2007-11-01  
  24. ^ Shoffman, Marc; Cohen, Benjamin (26 January 2006), "Hughes considered quitting over bisexual revelations",,, retrieved 2007-11-01  

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Mellish
Member of Parliament for Bermondsey
Succeeded by
constituency abolished
Preceded by
new constituency
Member of Parliament for Southwark and Bermondsey
Succeeded by
constituency abolished
Preceded by
new constituency
Member of Parliament for North Southwark and Bermondsey
Party political offices
Preceded by
Navnit Dholakia
President of the Liberal Democrats
2004 – 2008
Succeeded by
Ros Scott

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