Simon Hughes claimed on Question Time tonight that he has never attacked the other two candidates. Dimblebum later said that the attacks were on his website, prompting this rebuttal:
Simon appeared on BBC1’s Question Time with the other leadership candidates on Thursday evening, and really connected with the audience in the studio and at home – it’s worth watching.
However, in the course of the progamme David Dimbleby stated as fact that Simon has published two attacks relating to other leadership candidates in his manifesto and / or on this Website. This allegation is untrue.
Well, I haven’t bothered scrolling through the whole website, but I have noticed that neither the In the News or Speeches section have been updated since before the ballot papers went out on 3 February. As I don’t scrutinise the website regularly, I can only assume that is a monumental cock-up on Camp Hughes’ part rather than that they have gone scurrying around removing anything in the past week that could be seen as an attack. But the BBC’s website is updated somewhat more regularly. It still carries the following story:
Mr Hughes, seen as the most left-wing of the three leadership contenders, said of Sir Menzies, the party’s 64-year-old acting leader and foreign affairs spokesman: “Members have to make a choice. Do they want a leader for this parliament and this generation or do they want a caretaker?”
He said Treasury spokesman Mr Huhne, 51, lacked “campaigning experience” and had “no evidence of relating well to the British public”.
These are direct quotes – attributed to him personally, not a spokesperson. If the BBC has printed an outright falsehood, then it is an absolute scandal. So, what action is Simon taking to have the story taken down, or have the relevant journalists disciplined? It is odd that he has allowed the stories to stay up there unchallenged for the past two days.
Once again then, we return to Simon Hughes’ judgement. Like the gay/bi/whatever situation, it is the way he has handled it that has raised eyebrows. There’s nothing wrong with being gay or bisexual. And there is nothing wrong with having criticisms of your political opponents – both criticisms are ones that the targets will need to account for. My suspicion is that he did say these things, whatever Camp Hughes put on their website. I would have a lot more respect for him if he had just come out and admitted it, rather than dissemble.
On a related note, I have received notice that Simon isn’t planning to answer the questions set on his e-hustings until Monday. Will anyone have not voted by then? (that is a rhetorical question by the way Rob)
UPDATE: Ann Treneman remarks:
It was a weird moment. Mr Hughes was being asked about saying that Chris Huhne was not very well known and that Sir Ming Campbell was cautious. Now Mr Hughes definitely said those things, and not long ago. Perhaps he had just forgotten. I found it worrying. Can his denial really be that strong? The answer, as always with the Lib-Dems, is that it can.
Maybe Simon will be suing the Times as well?