Simon Hughes

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Simon Hughes
Hughes addressing the Liberal Democrat conference in the ACC Liverpool, 2010
Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties
In office
18 December 2013 – 8 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byThe Lord McNally
Succeeded byDominic Raab
Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
9 June 2010 – 28 January 2014
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded byVince Cable
Succeeded byMalcolm Bruce
President of the Liberal Democrats
In office
1 January 2005 – 1 January 2009
Preceded byThe Lord Dholakia
Succeeded byThe Baroness Scott of Needham Market
Member of Parliament
In office
24 February 1983 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byBob Mellish
Succeeded byNeil Coyle
Liberal Democrat portfolios
1997–2003Home Affairs
2009–2010Energy and Climate Change
Personal details
Born (1951-05-17) 17 May 1951 (age 72)
Cheshire, England[1]
Political partyLiberal Democrats
Alma mater
WebsiteOfficial website

Sir Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a British former politician. He is now the Chancellor of London South Bank University, and a strategic adviser to Talgo, a Spanish manufacturer of trains. Hughes was deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2010 to 2014, and from 2013 until 2015 was Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark (and its predecessors) from 1983 until 2015. He declined a position in the House of Lords in 2015.[2]

Until 2008, he was president of the Liberal Democrats (the party president chairs the Federal Executive board of the party, is the senior elected party official 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 was appointed as a Privy Councillor on 15 December 2010.[3] 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. Hughes is also the deputy Chair of Millwall Community Trust Millwall Community Trust and the Rose Theatre Trust, and the Friends of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust. In 2023 Hughes was appointed a Commissioner of the UK Trade and Business Commission. He is also a member of the Church of England Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Deanery Synod.

Early life and education[edit]

Hughes was born on 17 May 1951 to James Henry Annesley Hughes and his wife, Sylvia (née Ward).[4] 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 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 Camberwell in 1977 and Bermondsey in 1983


Hughes was first elected to Parliament in the Bermondsey by-election of 24 February 1983, in which he defeated Labour candidate and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. 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 Tatchell's character by various opposing campaigners. The Liberal campaign leaflet described the sixteen-candidate 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 as revelations of his own homosexual experiences, and confirming that he is bisexual, after being outed by The Sun newspaper. 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."[5]

In an apparent attempt to bring the controversy over the 1983 Bermondsey byelection to a close, Peter Tatchell formally endorsed Simon Hughes for Liberal Democrat 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."[6]

However, Hughes subsequently chose to abstain from the final vote for gay marriage. Earlier in the debates he voted for the second reading, but also backed what was seen as a "wrecking amendment"[7] and expressed the view that marriage was "traditionally ordained by God as between one man and one woman" and that civil marriage and faith-based marriage should be separated in law.[8]

At the 1983 general election, held a matter of months after the by-election victory, the constituency had been redrawn as Southwark and Bermondsey. By the 1997 election it had 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.[citation needed]

The election result in North Southwark and Bermondsey in the 2005 general election was a worse 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 its 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 had been controlled by the Liberal Democrats since 2002. In 2010 Hughes won a record majority of 8,530.

Hughes lost the seat in 2015 to Labour's Neil Coyle, after being an MP for 32 years. He stood again at the 2017 general election in his former seat, gaining 18,189 votes, but was defeated for the second time by Coyle who polled 31,161 votes, a majority of 12,972. Hughes stood down as a parliamentary candidate in September 2018.[9][10]

Political and parliamentary career[edit]

Hughes first joined the Liberal Party in 1971, when he signed up to Cambridge University Liberal Club as a student.[11] As part of the SDP–Liberal Alliance, he 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, Hughes—along with two other MPs, Archy Kirkwood and Michael Meadowcroft, 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 Hughes' speech that won the day for the rebels by 23 votes.[citation needed]

Among other party offices, Hughes was 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."[12] He was a member of the centre-left Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats.[13]

He was 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 was no suggestion that Mr Hughes benefited personally from the donation. The commissioner found that none of the breaches of the rules was intentional and that there was no attempt to conceal any donations. Simon Hughes apologised to parliament for his mistakes.[14]

In December 2013, Hughes was appointed as a Minister of State for Justice, following the resignation of Lord McNally who had become Chair of the Youth Justice Board. Hughes announced he would stand down as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats once a successor was elected, following a decision that the Deputy Leader should not hold any office in the coalition government.

Getting refugee status for Mehdi Kazemi[edit]

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, on the basis that it almost certainly would have executed him. Kazemi thanked Hughes in a letter to people across the world who fought to prevent deportation: "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."[15]

Leadership election, 2006[edit]

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."[16]

After revelation about Hughes' long-rumoured sexuality,[17] 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."[18]

Hughes apologised after his outing by The Sun, saying "I gave a reply that wasn't untrue but was clearly misleading and I apologise."[19] He also admitted during the Question Time leadership candidate debate on BBC One on 9 February that he hadn't handled the matter very well.[20]

Hughes campaigned under a slogan of "Freedom, fairness and sustainability".[21] His manifesto was also released in PDF format, and was available from his campaign website.[22] Of the three candidates in the contest, he was generally considered the most left wing.

The campaign was marked by a series of hustings around the UK. One was held in Edinburgh,[23] where Hughes stressed his human rights and green-friendly background; another in Manchester.[24] The final hustings was held in London on 23 February 2006.[25][26][27]

He said he was proud to have played some part in the success of the Lib Dems across the country.[28]

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 Menzies Campbell's leadership continued, Simon Hughes publicly criticised him in a GMTV interview, stating that he had to do better.[29]

Deputy leadership election, 2010[edit]

The 2010 general election, held on 6 May 2010, was the first since 1974 to result in a hung parliament—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 and resigned from his role as deputy party leader. Cable's resignation as deputy leader caused a deputy leadership election, with Hughes defeating Tim Farron by 38 votes to 18.

Personal life[edit]

Outside politics, Hughes is a supporter of Millwall Football Club.

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 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,[30] and later in an interview with The Guardian he repeated the denial.[31]

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.[32]

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.[33]

In an interview broadcast on the same day on BBC Radio 5 Live, when 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."[34]

He once appeared on Top of the Pops.[35]


On 13 May 2010 Hughes was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council.[36] This gave him the Honorific Prefix "The Right Honourable" for Life. In the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Hughes was knighted "for public and political service".[37] This allowed him to be known as "Sir Simon Hughes".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography - Simon Hughes". Simon Hughes. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  2. ^ Wintour, Patrick (15 May 2015). "Vince Cable among four senior Lib Dems to turn down Lords offer from Clegg". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  3. ^ "Privy Council" (PDF). Privy Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  4. ^ "Hughes, Rt Hon. Simon (Henry Ward)" Archived 29 October 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Who's Who 2014. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online ed. Oxford University Press, 2014 ; online ed., November 2014; retrieved 8 May 2015. (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Simon Hughes apologises for homophobic smears in 1983". Pink News. 24 January 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Tatchell Backs Simon Hughes". Peter Tatchell. 25 January 2006. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Gay marriage: The MPs who voted for Tim Loughton's 'wrecking' amendment". Telegraph. 21 May 2013. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  8. ^ Profile Archived 9 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine,, 21 May 2013; accessed 9 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Express News". 9 June 2017. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  10. ^ May, Josh (18 April 2017). "Coalition bigwigs Vince Cable, Simon Hughes and Ed Davey prepare to stand again for the Liberal Democrats". Politics Home. Archived from the original on 22 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  11. ^ Keynes Society website Archived 25 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 9 May 2015.
  12. ^ No English parliament – Falconer Archived 14 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  13. ^ About us Archived 5 July 2008 at the Wayback MachineThe Beveridge Group 28 October 2007
  14. ^ "Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes faces probe over donation". BBC News. 8 December 2012. Archived from the original on 29 November 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  15. ^ Gay Iranian Refugee Thanks His Supporters Across the World Archived 27 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, UK Gay News, London, 23 May 2008; retrieved 14 May 2008.
  16. ^ "Hughes enters Lib Dem leader race". BBC News. 12 January 2006. Archived from the original on 16 January 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  17. ^ Barnes, Eddie; Brady, Brian (29 January 2006). "Hands up if you think the Lib Dems have lost the plot". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 29 October 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2006. 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."
  18. ^ "Lib Dem candidate gets gay backing". Pink News. 17 January 2006. Archived from the original on 13 May 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2006. Peter Tatchell reaffirmed his opinion on the leadership election after Hughes' outing by The Sun, stating "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"
  19. ^ "Gay revelation 'is leader test'". BBC News. 26 January 2006. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  20. ^ "Question Time". BBC. 9 February 2006. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  21. ^ "Freedom". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 8 February 2006. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011.
  22. ^ "Simon Hughes Leadership Themes" (PDF). Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 8 February 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 August 2011.
  23. ^ Stephen Glenn's Linlithgow Journal Archived 6 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 9 May 2015.
  24. ^ Grice, Andrew (21 February 2006). "Lib Dem leadership contenders battle for the green vote". The Independent. London, UK. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  25. ^ "Lib Dem Leadership Election 2006, Last chance to meet the candidates – An evening with The Independent". The Independent. London, UK. 11 February 2006. Archived from the original on 22 January 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  26. ^ "Lib Dem leadership contenders clash on tax in final pitch for votes" Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 24 February 2006.
  27. ^ Lib Dem contenders in final bid Archived 29 October 2021 at the Wayback Machine,, 24 February 2006.
  28. ^ "Simon Hughes' speech to London hustings". Simon Hughes Leadership Campaign. 23 February 2006. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  29. ^ "Menzies Campbell must do better" Archived 25 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The Telegraph, 13 October 2007.
  30. ^ McSmith, Andy (16 January 2006). "I'm not gay, I'd like to get married, says Hughes". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  31. ^ White, Michael; Branigan, Tania (24 January 2006). "I can win this time". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  32. ^ "Hughes explains his gay admission". BBC News. 26 January 2006. Archived from the original on 26 July 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  33. ^ Shoffman, Marc; Cohen, Benjamin (26 January 2006). "Hughes considered quitting over bisexual revelations". Pink News. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  34. ^ "Hughes considered quitting over bisexual revelations". 26 January 2006. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  35. ^ "Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes danced on Top of the Pops". BBC News. 31 March 2011. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  36. ^ "BUSINESS TRANSACTED AND ORDER APPROVED AT THE PRIVY COUNCIL HELD BY THE QUEEN AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE ON 13th MAY 2010" (PDF). The Privy Council Office. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  37. ^ "No. 61256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2015. p. B2.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Bermondsey
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Southwark & Bermondsey
Member of Parliament
for North Southwark & Bermondsey

Member of Parliament
for Bermondsey & Old Southwark

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by