The Liberal Democrat leadership contender Simon Hughes admitted today to having had homosexual relationships.
In an interview with The Sun newspaper, the party president and MP for Southwark and Bermondsey said he had had a number of gay relationships.
He said: "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."
He also admitted to phoning Man Talk, a gay chat service.
Mr Hughes, 54, stressed that his admission would not affect his bid for the Lib Dem leadership.
He expressed sympathy for former fellow leadership contender Mark Oaten, who admitted an affair with a rent boy at the weekend.
He said: "Nobody has a perfect life. I have never claimed I have. Very few people have simple lives."
In a statement to PA today, Mr Hughes said: "I believe that people have a right to a private life, providing that their private life does not impinge upon their public responsibilities.
"I have always maintained that someone's sexual orientation should not be a barrier to public life in modern Britain.
"I strongly believe that people should have a right to personal privacy.
"Today, however, I have accepted publicly that I have had homosexual relationships in the past as well as heterosexual ones.
"No element of illegality or payment has ever been involved.
"I do not believe that anything that I have done has impinged upon my capacity to serve my constituents or fulfil any of the roles that I have sought, undertaken or am seeking for the future.
"I intend to continue to work for them with enthusiasm."
The statement contradicts comments Mr Hughes made over recent days denying he was gay, saying he "often" thought about getting married but had not been "as successful as I would have liked".
Asked by the Independent last week whether he was gay, he said: "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."
In another interview for the Guardian on Tuesday, he was again asked whether he was a homosexual.
He said: "I'm a single guy, which is why I guess it's easy for people to speculate.
"I'm not going to go into details of relationships but I made a statement, made it clearly and it hasn't changed since last week."
He told The Sun today that he had perhaps been "overly defensive over questions about my sexuality".
Earlier this week, Mr Hughes apologised for homophobic elements of the by-election campaign which first shot him to political fame in a shock victory in 1983.
He told BBC2's Newsnight that he accepted some elements of his party's campaign to defeat gay rights activist Peter Tatchell had been "unacceptable", although he pointed out that Mr Tatchell blamed the media and Labour colleagues more.
"I have never been comfortable about the whole of that campaign as Peter knows, and I said that to him in the past privately and publicly," he said."
The Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce said that as a single person, Mr Hughes's private life was "to some extent, a matter for him".
And he said he believed the leadership contest would be fought on political not personal grounds.
"At the end of the day Simon is a single person and to some extent his relationships and his private life are a matter for him," he said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"My own view is that the party is going to focus on politics rather than personalities and in a month's time we will have a new leader and I believe once that happens people will see we are a relevant, effective political force and those are the real issues, not people's individual private life.
"The fact is, Simon is a single man."Reuse content