BY TOBY PORTER firstname.lastname@example.org
A politician who steered the Liberal Democrats through five years of coalition government has told his party he is retiring.
Sir Simon Hughes was Minister of Justice in David Cameron’s Conservative/Lib Dem coalition from 2010-15 and Deputy Leader of the party under Nick Clegg until the party suffered a meltdown at the 2015 General Election – when Mr Hughes lost his seat after 33 years.
Sir Simon wrote to Southwark Liberal Democrat Chairwoman, Gail Kent last month, saying: “I plan to have a break from seeking political office for at least four yeas until the end of 2022.
I plan to remain a committed liberal and party member.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have represented our party locally for so long.
“I am grateful for those many local people who have supported and now support us and who make clear how much they want us to win back this seat again.”
Sir Simon was first elected a GLC councillor 38 years ago.
He stood in 10 elections to the Commons from 1983-2017 as well as the London Mayoral election in 2004, where he recorded his party’s highest vote. He lost his seat to Neil Coyle at the 2015 General Election.
He added: “I intend to continue to live locally and stay much involved in our wonderful community.”
Sir Simon has fought campaigns to save Guy’s Hospital and to ensure there are Tube stations at Bermondsey and Southwark.
Ms Kent replied: “It is with great regret that I have to accept your formal notice, standing down as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Southwark and Old Bermondsey.
“Like many, many others, I have learnt so much from you. You have been a mentor and friend for almost 20 years. “Your selfless (and often sleepless) dedication to British public service – and Southwark in particular – is obvious to any who know you. And there are a huge number.
“Campaigning with you is always a joy. There’s hardly a tenants’ and residents’ association, a local business, a school, church, mosque or community group you haven’t helped. They all recognise you. And they recognise that our community is all the better for having you at the heart of it for 38 years.
I, too, am delighted that with our victory in 14 council seats, the tide is turning against Southwark as a one party Labour state. I am also delighted that you will continue to play an (albeit lesser) role in fighting for a more Liberal London.”
Sir Simon was first elected to Parliament on February 24, 1983, beating Labour candidate and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The Liberal campaign leaflet described the sixteen-candidate election as “a straight choice” between Simon Hughes and the Labour candidate.
Sir Simon apologised for the campaign in 2006, saying: “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.”
Mr Tatchell formally endorsed Simon Hughes for Liberal Democrat leader on January 25, 2006, saying: “Despite his recent drift to the centre, Simon is the contender most likely to move the Liberal Democrats in a progressive direction.
“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.”
Sir Simon still did not vote in favour of the legalisation of marriage of two people of the same gender.