0200604054300Simon Hughes has vowed to stay in the LibDem leadership race despite having been "outed" as gay.

Mr Hughes recently told The Independent that he was not gay after the newspaper asked him if he was homosexual:

"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.”

Today’s Sun presented him with evidence that he used the ManTalk service – an "interactive telephone chat service for Gay men over the age of 18 who want to make new contacts."  Mr Hughes, 54, told The Sun:

“I am perfectly willing to say that I have had both homosexual and heterosexual relationships in the past.  I hope that does not disqualify me from doing a good job in public life and I propose to carry on doing that with the usual enthusiasm and determination.”

Mr Hughes’ leadership rivals – Ming Campbell and Chris Huhne – told BBCi that Mr Hughes’ sexuality was not an issue.

Many MPs are privately gay.  Politics seems to attract a disproportionate number of gay people.  The long, demanding hours are not always easy for busy parents.  My guess is that most voters couldn’t care less about an MP’s sexuality although most voters would like politicians to more actively support policies that help families with children and the aspiration to marry, in particular.  The And Theory is – as always! – very relevant here.  "A commitment to actively support the married family and fair pension and inheritance arrangements for gay adults" are perfectly compatible.  What we have in British politics is the political will to enact civil partnerships and accept private lifestyles (perfectly fair enough) but not to end the marriage penalty and therefore encourage the benefits that marriage brings children and wider society.

After tabloid outings of Oaten and now Hughes I expect other MPs are feeling vulnerable.  That’s certainly Iain Dale’s view.  Iain writes the following on his blog this evening:

"We also have to face the fact that if Mark Oaten hadn’t been outed on Sunday, Simon Hughes probably wouldn’t have been today. My great fear now is that the media smell blood. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were further revelations between now and Sunday. If I were an MP with a personal secret I don’t think I’d look forward to answering my phone on Saturday."