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Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Sun-watch: Outting by force.

Congratulations then to the Sun, who managed to blackmail Simon Hughes into admitting he has had homosexual relationships. Apparently having proof either of Hughes' activity on gay web sites or chat lines, they most likely phoned him up and said, "we'll go easy on if you give us the exclusive etc". So Hughes and the Lib Dems become another victim of a press scoop, and the sense of crisis becomes even more apparent.

To quote:

The MP for Bermondsey in South London said: “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.”

Apparently because he's came out as having both homosexual and heterosexual relationships, that makes him a hypocrite and a liar, except:

Asked by the Independent last week whether he was gay, he said: "The answer is no, as it happens. But if it was the case, which it isn't, I hope that would not become an issue."

Asked again by the Guardian for an article on Tuesday whether he was homosexual, he said: "I'm a single guy, which is why I guess it's easy for people to speculate."

"I'm not going to go into details of relationships but I made a statement, made it clearly and it hasn't changed since last week."

Neither of which was a lie, nor were they particularly misleading. He isn't gay, he's bisexual, if anything. The other claim that he was a hypocrite is that he lead a previous campaign against Peter Tatchell, when he was running for Labour. Tatchell is openly gay and runs the outspoken gay-rights group OutRage! Hughes was described as the "straight choice", which does have very overt homophobic overtones. However, Tatchell doesn't seem particularly bothered, and Hughes publicly apologised about it only this week:

He told BBC2's Newsnight that he accepted some elements of his party's campaign to defeat gay rights activist Peter Tatchell had been "unacceptable", although he pointed out that Mr Tatchell blamed the media and Labour colleagues more.

"I have never been comfortable about the whole of that campaign as Peter knows, and I said that to him in the past privately and publicly," he said.


"Simon benefited from these dirty tricks, but that was 23 years ago - I don't hold a grudge," said Mr Tatchell.

"Based on information [my campaign] received we had a very strong suspicion that Simon was gay despite the homophobic campaign against me."

Mr Tatchell said he welcomed Mr Hughes' belated admission: "Although it is a pity Simon was, even recently, denying being gay, it is great that he has now come out."

"I don't support the Lib Dems, but if I was a member I would vote for Simon as leader."

So err, not exactly damning testimony.

The Sun being the Sun, it couldn't resist referring to the Lib Dems as the "Limp-Dems" (geddit?!?!?!) and along the bottom linking to the pages with "another one bites the pillow", which seems a rather tasteless joke to say the least. It also says that "another confesses", somehow trying to link Mark Oaten into the story. Except Simon Hughes wasn't "living a lie" and hasn't tried to conceal his sexuality from anyone, least of all his own family.

Hughes is perfectly entitled to a private life, and though he has now done the honourable thing, it's a shame that he was forced into doing this by a newspaper which has been virulently homophobic throughout its history. It's also likely that following his statement that others are secretly gay that they'll be a scrum now to try to attempt to uncover them. However, even some Sun readers seem to not give a damn about any politicians sexuality, as the comments at the bottom of their story show:

What is wrong with this country? Since when did the sexuality of a politician affect their ability to do the job? I don’t care whether Simon Hughes is homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual – since he’s never persecuted others for their sexual orientation.

This isn’t a matter about being truthful. All of us lie about some things in life. How many of us would be prepared to admit publicly the full details of our sex lives?

We shouldn’t expect more of our politicians than we do of ourselves.

If it doesn’t affect the way they do their jobs, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Patrick Mahon

It's a shame he had to lie about it for so long especially when the majority of us (who even care) guessed he was gay anyway.

Peter Atkinson

It does not matter on iota whether Simon Hughes is gay, bisexual or heterosexual.

We we are living in the 21st century and questions of this kind are irrelevant and quite frankly a waste of time.

What is important is whether Simon Hughes can do the job of leading the Liberal Democrats or not.

It is a pity that someone in this day and age has to hide their sexuality. Mr. Hughes was right to try and keep it.

I have no reservations about his ability to do the job of leading the Lib Dems. His bedtime habits are of no interest to me.

David Markham-Dorney

The British public has nothing to do with Hughes’ sexual preferences, nor with any individual’s sexual preferences, for that matter – as long as they don’t hurt other people.


Let's hope this signals the final nail in the coffin for those who think that politician's private lives when they're hurting no one except themselves are a cause for public dissemination. Gay or not, like Tatchell, if I was a Lib Dem, Hughes would have my vote.

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