Reporting by Tom Glasser and Taylor Dalton.
The Liberal Democrats are hoping that the South London constituency of Bermondsey & Old Southwark will remain under the tenure of their incumbent MP, Simon Hughes.
The constituency – home to Tower Bridge, Borough Market and the Heygate Estate – has remained a Lib Dem seat ever since the infamous by-election of 1983.
Background history- Infamous by-election of 1983
Although Simon Hughes won the election over the Labour candidate Peter Tatchell, the campaign was mired by allegations made against Mr Tatchell’s sexuality.
Peter Tatchell said he was violently attacked more than 100 times while campaigning on the streets, and his home was vandalized and attacked over 30 times.
He was vilified without mercy by the press.
Quite apart from the homophobia he had also been demonized as an extremist for policies that are now mainstream.
At no point was there media reporting of the policies I was standing for. I was demonised as the Marxist, Militant Tendency activist. I was opposed by the Militant Tendency. It was very difficult to get a fair hearing.
Simon Hughes has apologised publicly and privately to Peter Tatchell for the homophobia present in the campaign in 1983.
He said on BBC Newsnight:
There was some things that shouldn’t have happened. I’m clear it was a disgraceful campaign in terms of its homophobia and I have tried particularly to make sure that in my time as MP I have done nothing to set back the cause of gay equality and I’ve worked with Peter and others.
He said if he could rewind the clock and been in control of the campaign there are a number of things he would have stopped including the distribution of a leaflet saying ‘It is a straight choice.’
Both men said the campaign was more complicated than being about the closeted gay man defeating the gay man who had come out.
Ever since then, Simon Hughes has held onto the seat in eight general elections.
The present General Election Campaign 2015
While Simon Hughes enjoys a strong reputation among his constituents, this previously safe seat for the Lib Dems may now fall victim to the party’s poor showing in the polls and the fallout from being in a government coalition with the Tories.
Mr Hughes’ campaign, aiming for a successive ninth victory, is focused around: jobs; the NHS; and affordable homes, particularly pertinent in light of the redevelopment of the Heygate estate, approved by the Labour-run council.
So who is looking to dethrone Simon Hughes from the seat he has held for over 30 years?
Labour hopes that their candidate, Neil Coyle, whose campaign trailed the Lib Dems by just one percentage point according to a Lord Ashcroft Poll last September, will bring an end to Simon Hughes’ winning streak.
Interviewed by LondonSE1, the Southwark Councillor set out his campaign for the 2015 election:
We will be taking the fight directly to Simon Hughes to expose his duplicity as part of the Tory-led Government.
The failure of Simon Hughes and his out-of-touch coalition has left thousands of local families struggling to make ends meet.
We need an MP who will deliver jobs and growth and put the people of Bermondsey and Old Southwark first.
Meanwhile, UKIP are placing their hopes on Andrew Beadle, a former union representative and manager in the aerospace industry.
Beadle’s issue of focus appears to primarily be affordable housing, and on his website he encourages those looking to ‘step onto the property ladder’ to reach out to him with their concerns.
Beadle’s profile on his website concludes with a message about his goal to bring local decision making back to local people:
Living in London means many things to many different people. However, we all agree that for the people of London, as with the people of Britain, to see the best from our Country, we all need to have control over our lives, our society and our laws. I joined UKIP to achieve these goals. I vote UKIP so to place decision making back in the hands of the people of Britain. Only local people can make the right decisions locally, tackling local issues. As your MP I will place your needs first, giving you that voice.
Let’s Believe in Britain!
And the Green Party are focusing their attentions on William Lavin, a 30 year member of the party who has been living in Bermondsey for the last five years.
Lavin was a member of the Green Party National Executive Committee and stood against John Major in Huntingdon in the 1987 General Election.
Lavin’s campaigning issues range from the NHS and Southwark’s Guy’s Hospital, to job creation in the areas of renewable energy and energy conservation, to improvements for public transportation and addressing the lack of social housing in the area.
The current candidates standing for Bermondsey and Old Southwark are:
2010 General Election results for Bermondsey and Old Southwark can be found here.