I'm not gay, I'd like to get married, says Hughes

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Indy Politics

Simon Hughes, a front-runner in the Liberal Democrat leadership campaign, has said he would like to get married but that every woman he has asked has turned him down.

Mr Hughes is seen by most observers as the only candidate with enough support to be a serious challenge to the party's acting leader, Sir Menzies Campbell.

Sir Menzies has more support from fellow MPs, but Mr Hughes is thought to be more popular among the party members.

Mr Hughes, 54 and single, has been dogged by rumours that he is gay since he won office in 1983, in a campaign marred by homophobic taunts directed at the Labour candidate, Peter Tatchell. Mr Hughes has guarded his privacy but now he has said he is not gay.

Mr Hughes is trying to break free from the tag that he is the "left" candidate who would fight an election on a platform of high taxes.

Sir Menziesis trying to reassure members who think he is too right-wing. Allies of Charles Kennedy suggested yesterday that Sir Menzies was more cautious than the former leader in opposing the Iraq war. Mr Kennedy's former chief of staff, Dick Newby, told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby show that there was a row over ananti-war march in London in 2003. The views of some of the organisers alarmed Sir Menzies, who tried to talk Mr Kennedy out of going, he alleged.