Bisexual MP Simon Hughes has lost the seat he has held for over three decades.
In a close fought race, Hughes’ constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, in south London has gone to Neil Coyle of Labour.
Liberal Democrat Hughes had a sizeable majority at the last election in 2010 of over 8,500 votes and 19%. But Coyle slashed that lead, winning 22,146 votes to Hughes’ 17,657.
The third placed candidate was a gay Conservative, Jean-Paul Floru, who gained 6,051 votes.
Hughes was first elected in 1983 during the so-called Battle for Bermondsey where he took on gay activist and Labour candidate Peter Tatchell.
A Liberal campaign leaflet described the election as ‘a straight choice’ between Hughes, still in the closet at the time, and the gay and proud Tatchell.
It was referred to by the now-closed publication Gay News as ‘the dirtiest and most notorious by-election in British political history’.
In 2006 Hughes came out and apologized for the homophobic campaign, saying he never felt comfortable with it. Tatchell accepted his apology.
In parliament, Hughes often voted for gay equality and helped win asylum for young gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi, who had already had his boyfriend executed by Iran and looked certain to be killed if he returned.
In the battle for same-sex marriage, he voted in favor early on. But he also backed a ‘wrecking amendment’ and abstained from the final vote. He stated marriage was ‘traditionally ordained by God as between one man and one woman’.
Beyond that, Hughes became a senior member in his party, running unsuccessfully for the Liberal Democrat leadership in 2006. Showing his forgiveness, Tatchell endorsed his leadership bid.
He has been the coalition government’s Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties since December 2013.
The loss of his seat indicates the level of defeat the Liberal Democrats face, with exit polls suggesting they will retain only 10 seats, down from 56.