LibLink … Simon Hughes: You Ask The Questions

Apologies, folks, we missed this one yesterday … Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for Energy and Climate Change, was the subject of The Independent’s latest You Ask The Questions Q&A feature. Here are three of the 15 questions and Simon’s answers:

Why is your constituency [Bermondsey & Old Southwark] still riven by inequality and lack of jobs 25 years after you became MP? TANYA AHMED, WOLVERHAMPTON

The short answer is that inequality and job creation is most influenced by the international economy, and national and regional government – and for all of my time as MP we have had Conservative and Labour governments nationally and regionally.

Nonetheless, locally our unemployment rate is much better than the UK average and in the last eight years, when Liberal Democrats have led the local council, we have worked successfully to provide good new schools and improved educational standards. I also spend much of my time helping individuals and families not just to obtain full benefit entitlements and housing but to obtain apprenticeships, training and work – happily and with much success.

Do you regret once campaigning as The Straight Candidate, given what later came out, as it were? MUNIR HASSAN, LEICESTER

I have said publicly for many years that although I do not believe that I or any of my campaign staff presented me as “the straight candidate”, although the use of the phrase ‘It’s a straight choice’ – as often used in many elections before and since – was not appropriate given the circumstances of the by-election. I did speak out at the time against homophobia – in the press, the Labour Party and the public – but my comments were barely noticed. I have since privately and publicly apologised to Peter Tatchell, worked with him, and applauded him. I have been unswerving all my public life in working in and out of Parliament for an end to all discrimination and prejudice – as Peter Tatchell, Stonewall and others have been good enough to say regularly.

Is splitting the Left vote by creating a third party the most counter-productive thing English liberals ever did? QUINCE WARBLE, ST ALBANS

The Liberals were in existence as the progressive alternative to Conservatives long before Labour, and gave Britain some of the most radical progressive governments of the 20th century. Only our stupid and undemocratic electoral system prevents our Parliament from accurately reflecting the real political views of the British people. Only the growing strength and influence of Liberal Democrats will change this.

You can read Simon’s answers to the other 12 Indy readers’ questions by clicking here.

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