'Private lives' warning by Simon Hughes

PEOPLE will be put off seeking public office unless politicians are allowed a private life, the Liberal Democrats' president Simon Hughes warned the conference yesterday.

By Graham Dines

PEOPLE will be put off seeking public office unless politicians are allowed a private life, the Liberal Democrats' president Simon Hughes warned the conference yesterday.

In an outspoken attack, he said the fear of being exposed in the media was a major turn off for those wishing to undertake public service. Not everyone was able to cope with the pressures of the constant scrutiny that was being undertaken in the newspapers on public figures.

Mr Hughes had to admit during the party's leadership battle earlier this year that he had had both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. His colleague Mark Oaten withdraw from the race when his campaign as a family man was exposed by a newspaper to be less than truthful after he was forced to admit he had paid for gay sex with rent boys.


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“We as a country must make clear that there are, and should be, proper and appropriate boundaries between the public and the private,” said Mr Hughes in a speech to delegates.

That was something especially “needed for people less able to cope or more likely to be put off from holding public office than people like me.”

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“We have to make sure that we don't put people off from standing for, and being in, the public service because they fear that suddenly it means their families, their friends and the whole of their life and their hinterland is exposed for public critique.”

Mr Hughes, who continually denied being gay, was elected to Parliament in 1983 in a bitter by-election in the London constituency of Bermondsey against gay rights campaigner and openly gay Peter Tatchell.

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