Simon Hughes has been forced to admit he is gay as a result of revelations about his participation in online gay chat websites put to him by The Sun newspaper. I've just been listening to an interview with The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh discuss how the story was obtained and why they chose to publish it now.
A few days ago I wrote that Simon Hughes is a creep. I still think the man is a creep, even if I have some sympathy with his denials (even as recently as twice during the past week, in interviews) that he is gay. Despite what Trevor Kavanagh says in his interview referred to above, society still makes a 'big deal' of being gay and whilst Simon Hughes may hope that his admission will have no material effect on his becoming leader of the LibDems I don't think he really believes that, and nor do I. Trevor Kavanagh also said in the interview that it was widely believed that former Prime Minister Edward Heath was gay. Now, I have no knowledge of whether he was gay, or not, but if it is true that he was then the very fact that he never 'came clean' about it is a pretty strong indicator that he (Heath) felt that to admit this would have been disastrous for his political prospects, specially in the 1960s, when homosexuality was still illegal until 1967, and probably also in the 1970 election, just a few years later; whatever the Conservative Party leadership knew at the time, I doubt very much they could have contemplated continuing to support him had his alleged sexuality been public knowledge and I think it highly doubtful that the electorate of that time would have voted them into power if they had known that the next PM would be gay - simple fact, so far as I am concerned.
So to summarise, Simon Hughes is a creep (for his homophobic election campaign against Tatchell in the 1980s), he was possibly also at the time a hypocrite (Jae, a gay LibDem member in Greenwich, hates Hughes's guts for his hypocrisy). Despite this I still have a certain degree of sympathy for this creep's predicament. However, I tend to share Nosemonkeys's viewpoint as expressed here - he's a Lib Dem, so it is largely irrelevant!
UPDATE: (Thursday 26JAN06 11.55 GMT) I was listening to a recording I made last night of some radio programmes I had to miss because I was doing other things - one of the programmes I had wanted to record was not in fact broadcast because it was replaced by an "Any Questions? Liberal Democrat Leadership Special", as usual hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby - I had been unaware such a programme had been scheduled almost at the last minute. As might be expected some of what was discussed is particuarly pertinent (for what was not said!) to the 'outing' of Simon Hughes by The Sun just a few hours later. Naturally, being a LibDem 'event' the whole tone of the questionning was superficially very civilised, but there was rather a lot of subtle (and some pretty unsubtle) back-biting comment by various of the leadership candidates about the others; highly amusing and a very clear demonstration of why the LibDems remain a joke Party. You can listen to the programme here - probably only online until tomorrow evening, though, when the next programme is broadcast.
2nd UPDATE (Thursday 26JAN06 17.55 GMT) I've just been watching an interview with Peter Tatchell on BBC News24 in which he explained in quite a lot of detail, and fairly convincingly, why he believes that Simon Hughes is not homophobic. I still think he is a 'creep', but am happy to accept what Tatchell says in this matter because he obviously knows Hughes personally and has observed his voting record in the House of Commons ever since he was elected.
3rd UPDATE (Friday 27JAN06 15.20 GMT) There's more knawing at this particular bone in Guido Fawkes' Blog here - after having read this and the comments that were there when I read it I have to say I tend to share Guido's quite harsh verdict, notwithstanding my continuing sympathy (to an increasingly limited extent, though) for Simon Hughes' predicament.