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Enough about Hughes – spare a thought for Branigan and Bennett!

January 26th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

Yes I have some sympathy for Simon Hughes. What he gets up to is his own business and good luck to him. I have always had a dislike of him stemming from the Bermondsey by-election and the treatment of Peter Tatchell.

However, I didn’t know until reading it here that Tatchell himself accepts that Hughes had not orchestrated the dubious campaign, and he is in a position to know. So I stand corrected and have to revise my previous opinion of the man as a hypocrite. His statement (I don’t like the word “confession”. It implies there is something wrong with being gay) today hasn’t changed my opinion of him, but the statement that

Gay rights activist Mr Tatchell said he had never considered “outing” Mr Hughes as he had not been hypocritical on gay issues.

has changed my opinion. I still don’t like a lot of his policies but have more time for him as a person.

The thing is that whenever I have mentioned the hypocrisy of the campaign people have corrected me saying that Hughes is not gay. And I couldn’t work out why they all thought that, and this is where Branigan and Bennett come in. In case anyone was wondering.

Tania Branigan is a political correspondent for the Guardian. Just two days ago I was reading a piece by her which contained this bit about Simon Hughes

There has been speculation about his own sexuality, prompted by his bachelorhood at 54 (he looks much younger) and his longstanding championing of gay rights.

He said his position had not changed since a recent statement in which he denied he was gay, although he added it should not matter even if he were. He also admitted that he had proposed to women who had turned him down.

At the time it knocked me back, as it contradicted something which I was sure I knew. It shook my faith. It was like being told that Richard Dawkins doesn’t exist.

But now I read it again I can see that it didn’t actually say he was not gay. It just said that he claimed not to be, and with hindsight the writer can be seen not to be reporting it as fact. I bet it still features in Private Eye’s “Just Fancy That” column though.

But what about Catherine Bennett? She went a bit further, and in today’s Guardian – on the shelves at the same time as copies of the Sun containing Hughes’ statement she said

Since Simon Hughes is heterosexual but believed, by quite a number of people, to be gay, it is understandable that he should want to emphasise (if only to encourage any eligible women who might otherwise be deterred by this fallacy from encouraging his attentions) the true target of his sexual interests.

I bet she feels a bit silly having written that and having it published today of all days.

So spare a thought for Branigan & Bennett, and hope their families are rallying round them at this difficult time.

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