I have listened to the evidence and weighed it carefully. My verdict on Hughes is that he is guilty. Guilty of pursuing a grand deceit over two decades and guilty of being a prize prat in thinking that he had too. Guilty, no less, of concealment for the purpose of retaining power and maintaining ambition.
Thankfully for him, his punishment is simply to look ridiculous for a short while. If the electorate punish him at all it will only be due to the campaign of deceit and their consequent loss of faith. The Lib Dem members won't specifically punish him now, at least not for being gay and, knowing them, not even for lying. No, Hughes will lose the leadership campaign because deep down the Lib Dems won't want to enter the 2009 election with a leader best known for stumbling into the 21st Century still thinking he had to hide his sexuality. It's 2006, Simon. Watch a bit more Trisha and Springer and you'll realise your pretty mainstream now. You'll probably catch your old mate Oaten too - re-enacting the moment when he tells his wife....!!
I will make one sympathetic observation in this case. One suspects the true story behind the Sun's chatline proof is more tawdry than at first sight. Either the Sun has obtained credit card or telephone records illegally, or someone with access has taken the necessary papers, handed them to the press and plunged the knife into Hughes. No wonder Tatchell has accepted Hughes' apology for that homophobic election campaign in Bermondsey 1983 - his own strict code of outing the hypocrites has been followed to the letter. All good things come to those who wait. Two decades, eh Tatchell. Patience of a saint!
Next case - Oaten. Again a liar and a prat. He will be punished for his deceit very directly. No-one, however Liberal, will stand the sight of a wife and family being humiliated in this way. We'll be having Winchester back then shall we.
Finally - Opik. I'm afraid this man continues to pursue a political death wish with the zeal of a moth's headlong dash for those noisy lights up ahead and he remains my prize idiot of the week.
As the self appointed chief apologist for the Party he has taken debates into unchartered waters and sunk. Make no mistake, the rest of his Party have been delighted to defer to his lead. Noticed anyone coming to his rescue. Not likely! He thinks the media invite him on for his persuasive argument. Lembit, it's because you're great entertainment. Even Lembit's fiancee, weathergirl Sian Lloyd, has better judgement - she's the one who's delayed their wedding!! Now try re-negotiating that deal with OK!!
The "fat lady" started warming up weeks ago and finally last night, as Lembit went on This Week and freely admitted to being a political kiss of death, she burst heartily into song. We'll have Montgomeryshire back too.
There are dark forces at work in Cowley Street. The Lib Dems are having a really good bath and unless I am much mistaken a certain Mr Ming is in charge of the loofer.