Simon Henry Ward Hughes, PC MP (born 17 May 1951) is a British politician, was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2010 to 2014, and since 2013 has been Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. He has been the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark since 1983.
Until 2008 he was 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. He is also Chair of the trustees for the Thames Festival, a weekend of events on London's South Bank.
He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 15 December 2010. In December 2013 Hughes was appointed as a Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties and announced he would stand down as Deputy Leader upon the election of a successor.
Early life and pre-parliamentary career
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Hughes was born in Cheshire, England, and partly brought up in Wales. He was privately educated at The Cathedral School, Llandaff where he was Dean's Scholar and Head Boy in 1964; 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" between Simon Hughes and the Labour candidate. Hughes won the seat with 57.7% of the vote.
Hughes 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. He 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."
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."
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.
At the United Kingdom general election, 1983, held a matter of months after the by-election victory, the constituency had been redrawn as Southwark and Bermondsey. By the election in 1997, this has been redrawn again as North Southwark and Bermondsey, with a further change prior to the 2010 election at which the seat was titled Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
Political and parliamentary career
Hughes first joined the Liberal Party in 1972, when he signed up to Cambridge University Liberal Club as a student. 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 Archy 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.
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." He is a member of the centre-left Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats.
He is being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for failing to declare a £10,000 donation from a scrap metals company, Southwark Metals, to his local party. There is no suggestion that Mr Hughes benefited personally from the donation.
In December 2013 Hughes was appointed as a Minister of State for Justice following the resignation on Lord McNally, who had become Chair of the Youth Justice Board. Hughes has announced he will stand down as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats once a successor is elected due to changes to the party rules which state the Deputy Leader so not hold office in the Government.
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."
Leadership election 2006
On 12 January 2006 Hughes announced his candidature 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."
After revelation about Hughes' long rumoured sexuality, 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."
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." He also admitted during the Question Time leadership candidate debate on BBC1 on 9 February that he hadn't handled the matter very well.
Simon Hughes campaigned under the rubric of 'Freedom, fairness and sustainability.' His manifesto was also released in pdf format, and was available from his campaign website. 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 where Hughes stressed his human rights and Green friendly background; another in Manchester, where Chris Huhne rebutted criticism from Sir Menzies Campbell that his call for a rise 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.
He said he was proud to have played some part in the success of the LibDems across the country.
In the final result, Hughes came third in the ballot of party members – with 12,081 votes – behind Campbell and Huhne.
Deputy leadership election, 2010
The 2010 general election, held on 6 May 2010, resulted in the first hung parliament for 36 years – with the Conservative Party having the most votes and seats but no party having an overall majority. On 11 May 2010, Labour Party leader and prime minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation, which allowed David Cameron to become Prime Minister, after forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Among the Liberal Democrat MPs to be given roles in the cabinet was the deputy party leader Vince Cable, who became Business Secretary who resigned from his role as deputy party leader.
The resignation of Cable as deputy leader caused a deputy leadership election, with Hughes defeating Tim Farron, by 38–18.
2013 'Equal marriage' controversy
In May 2013 Hughes was criticised in an open letter by Liberal Democrat members, party officers and councillors in his south London constituency for abstaining in that month’s parliamentary vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Shortly before the Commons passed the Bill on 21 May (at third reading, with a majority of 205 votes), Hughes stated that he thought marriage was 'gender complimentary'; that it should be between heterosexual couples only; and that it was "ordained by God as between one man and one woman."
Outside politics Hughes is a noted supporter of Millwall football club, which whilst considered to be in South Bermondsey is actually based just outside his constituency in Lewisham Deptford. He once appeared as part of a dance troupe on Top of the Pops.
Hughes has never married, although in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2006, he claimed he had been turned down by "several women". He 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 being gay, and later in an interview with The Guardian he repeated the denial.
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. 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."
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."
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.
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."
- "Privy Council". Privy Council. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Simon Hughes: "I'm bisexual"". Pink News. 26 January 2006. 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 PinkNews.co.uk that he is 'bisexual,' whereas the last paragraph of the article states "This morning, Simon Hughes' spokesman confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk 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."
- "Simon Hughes apologises for homophobic smears in 1983". Pink News. 24 January 2006.
- "Tatchell Backs Simon Hughes". Peter Tatchell. 25 January 2006.
- About us Keynes Society
- No English parliament – Falconer, BBC News, 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
- About us – The Beveridge Group 28 October 2007
- "Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes faces probe over donation". BBC News. 8 December 2012.
- Gay Iranian Refugee Thanks His Supporters Across the World, UK Gay News, London, 23 May 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008
- "Hughes enters Lib Dem leader race". BBC News. 12 January 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
- Barnes, Eddie; Brady, Brian (29 January 2006). "Hands up if you think the Lib Dems have lost the plot". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. 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."
- "Lib Dem candidate gets gay backing". Pink News. 17 January 2006. Peter Tatchell reaffirmed his opinion on the leadership election after Hughes' 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"
- "Gay revelation 'is leader test'". BBC News. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
- "Question Time". BBC. 9 February 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
- "Freedom". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 8 February 2006.
- "Simon Hughes Leadership Themes" (PDF). Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 8 February 2006.
- "MPs' voting rights under debate". Edinburgh: Press Association. 19 February 2006.[dead link] See also Stephen Glenn's Linlithgow Journal
- Grice, Andrew (21 February 2006). "Lib Dem leadership contenders battle for the green vote". London: The Independent. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- "Lib Dem Leadership Election 2006, Last chance to meet the candidates – An evening with The Independent". London: The Independent. 11 February 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- 'Last chance to meet the candidates' Suz Blog, 21 February 2006
- Lib Dem leadership contenders clash on tax in final pitch for votes The Independent, 24 February 2006
- I get by with a little help from my Friends (Meeting House) Liberal Bureaucracy, 24 February 2006
- Lib dem leadership: London hustings[dead link]
- Linda's London Hustings Lindylooz Muse, 24 February 2006
- The Hustings of all Hustings Suz Blog, 24 February 2006
- Lib Dem contenders in final bid BBC News, 24 February 2006
- "Simon Hughes’ speech to London hustings". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 23 February 2006.
- Menzies Campbell must do better Telegraph, 13 October 2007
- Roberts, Scott (31 May 2013). "Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes faces wrath of local party for abstaining in equal marriage vote". Pink News. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "Local Lib Dems' "anger" over Simon Hughes gay marriage abstention". London SE1 Community Website. 31 May 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes danced on Top of the Pops". BBC News. 31 March 2011.
- McSmith, Andy (16 January 2006). "I'm not gay, I'd like to get married, says Hughes". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- White, Michael; Branigan, Tania (24 January 2006). "'I can win this time'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- "Hughes explains his gay admission". BBC News. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- Kavanagh, Trevor (3 August 2007). "Hughes: I've had gay sex". The Sun (London). Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- Kavanagh, Trevor (26 January 2006). "Hughes: I've had gay sex". The Sun (London). Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- Shoffman, Marc; Cohen, Benjamin (26 January 2006). "Hughes considered quitting over bisexual revelations". Pink News. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- "Hughes considered quitting over bisexual revelations". PinkNews.co.uk. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- Simon Hughes MP official constituency website
- Profile at the Liberal Democrats
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Profile: Simon Hughes BBC News, 3 February 2006
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Bermondsey
|Member of Parliament for Southwark and Bermondsey
|Member of Parliament for North Southwark and Bermondsey
|Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark
|Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties
|Party political offices|
|President of the Liberal Democrats
The Baroness Scott of Needham Market
|Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Sir Malcolm Bruce