Tatchell Backs Simon Hughes
Time to forgive the Liberal's dirty tricks in Bermondsey.
London - 25 January 2006
"Simon Hughes is the best of the Lib Dem leadership candidates. If I was a party member, he'd get my vote. I want to see a stronger lead on social justice and green issues. Despite his recent drift to the centre, Simon is the contender most likely to move the Liberal Democrats in a progressive direction."
This endorsement comes from Peter Tatchell, the former Labour candidate, who was defeated by Simon Hughes in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election - regarded by many commentators as the dirtiest and most violent election in Britain in the last 100 years.
Mr Tatchell, now a member of the Green Party, says it is "time to forgive and move on."
"I am on the left of the Green Party. I don't support the Lib Dems, but if I was a member I would vote for Simon as leader" said Tatchell.
"Although he lacks the radical vision of the Greens, compared to the other Lib Dem leadership candidates Simon has a better record on human rights, social justice and environmental issues.
"The Liberals fought a very dirty campaign during the Bermondsey by-election.
"Some of their male canvassers went around the constituency wearing lapel stickers emblazoned with the words 'I've been kissed by Peter Tatchell', in a blatant bid to win the homophobic vote.
"On the doorsteps they spread false rumours that I was chair of the local gay society - no such society existed.
"Simon's election leaflets described him as "the straight choice."
"A party member involved in the Liberal campaign in 1983 recently confessed to me that the Liberals were behind the anonymous and illegal campaign leaflet, 'Which Queen Will You Vote For?', which ridiculed my sexuality and invited local voters to have a go at me by listing my home address and phone number. After that leaflet was distributed around the constituency, there were dozens of attacks on my home and I was deluged with hate mail, death threats and obscene, homophobic phone calls.
"The Liberal's Focus campaign newsletter put out a false scare story suggesting that Southwark's Labour Council was likely to increase the rates by 135 percent. This falsehood had a very damaging effect on my support.
"But that is in the past. I don't hold grudges. I believe in redemption. 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.
"The Lib Dems are, unfortunately, not a radical Party. They are mostly good on democracy and human rights issues, but they support the pro-business, neo-liberal economic project of globalisation. Nevertheless, in Lib Dem terms, Simon is on the left of the party. Of all the leadership contenders, he is the most progressive. I hope he is elected Party leader. His election could help shift British politics a little further left-of-centre.
"Simon is preferable to the free market 'Orange Book' supporters, who want to move the party closer to the Tories. Repositing the Liberal Democrats to the right would be a disaster," said Mr Tatchell.
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