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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Hughes hints at London mayor bid
Is Hughes heading for city hall?

Liberal Democrat frontbencher Simon Hughes has hinted that he may stand in the next contest for London mayor.

In an interview with BBC News Online, Mr Hughes - who also said he believed the Liberal Democrats could be in government in two elections time - stressed that his burning desire is to be home secretary.


I think we do have our best chance of my political lifetime

Simon Hughes
But he said he was keeping his options open over joining the mayoral race in the capital.

Mr Hughes, who decided not to stand as a candidate in the first mayoral election in 2000, suggests that either he or former candidate Susan Kramer might be chosen for the Lib Dems.

Win

"I've always kept the option open in the sense that as the senior Liberal Democrat it must be an option," he said.

Simon Hughes
Hughes: Still eyeing government role
"I will do what I did last time, which is, I will make the decision a few weeks before the nomination date.

"I don't rule it out but that's only because I don't think I should.

"I think it is possible for a Liberal Democrat to win next time, interestingly.

"Ken will clearly stand again as an Independent and I guess he won't do as well as last time, because obviously last time, he sort of had unfinished business and he was the folk hero and so on.

"While he will have done some popular things, he will have done some unpopular things."

'Anybody's race'

Mr Hughes says he believes each of the candidates from the three main parties, plus Mr Livingstone, are likely to secure 25% of the vote.

"If that's the case, it's anybody's race and that would be very good for the party if we could win the mayoralty.

Ken Livingstone
Hughes believes Livingstone vote will fall
But while being in charge of the London mayor's steel and glass City Hall home on London's South Bank obviously holds some appeal, Mr Hughes says he has ruled out standing again as a future Lib Dem leader.

"Charles is doing very well. He did very well at the last election and to be honest, I am very happy doing this job, which is probably one of the two most exciting support jobs - foreign affairs, home affairs.

"I asked to do this job when Charles beat me and he kindly said I could.

Ambition

"It is (the leadership) not something I lie awake at night thinking about. Charles is the leader.

"All leaders in my lifetime have done 10 years or more. I don't imagine I would want to stand for the leader in eight years time.

"I'm about 10 years older than Charles.

"My ambition is to be in government and I would be very happy to be asked to be the home secretary in government before I finish."

Susan Kramer
Susan Kramer stood for the Lib Dems in 2000

Mr Hughes says he believes that the Liberal Democrats could be in government in two elections time.

"I think we do have our best chance of my political lifetime," he said.

"There is nothing inevitable about Labour and Tories being the two largest parties.

"We have got to get people to understand that we can do it.

"I think we could do it in two more goes - at the second election.

"The Tories don't appear to be going anywhere and I don't say that because I hate all Tories.

"If we could get up to near their level at the next election then there is no reason why as Labour comes down (in popularity) we couldn't be seen to be the alternative.

Confidence

But Mr Hughes admits his party needs to work harder to attract more women and representatives from ethnic and minority groups.

"We won't restore confidence to the British people unless the party looks like the world they live in," he said.

On more personal matters, and with his leader recently married, Mr Hughes is coy about why he has never taken the short walk down the aisle.

"I'm hopeless at relationships really, is I think the short answer," he said, but adds with a laugh: "That may not be quite true.

False starts

"There have been a few opportunities that I have regretted, missing a few boats.

"My dad married my mum when he was not much short of my age and my older brother eventually, after a few false starts, got married when he was about my age, so perhaps there's a bit of Welsh slowness in the system there or something, but never rule it out.

"But then I have no doubt if I suddenly announced I was going to get married Mr Jeremy Paxman, would like he did to Mr Kennedy, ask why on earth somebody would think marriage was a good idea in this day and age," said Mr Hughes.

"And I might be slightly more rude to Mr Paxman than Mr Kennedy was in reply."

But, Mr Hughes quipped: "We are in the age where families start later, so we should all keep fit and well in case we all end like Charlie Chaplin and start having our brood when we are 65."


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17 Sep 02 | Politics
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