I’ve huge admiration for the way Labour’s Gloria de Piero has dealt with the last week.
Faced with the prospect that a news agency claiming to act on behalf of a national newspaper is offering thousands of pounds for topless pictures taken of the new shadow minister for women and equalities when she was just 15, she made a dignified plea to be allowed to get on with her job.
The existence of said topless photos has been known since 2010, and de Piero has previously spoken about her motivation for the shoot – namely that she came from a family who were not well off, and needed the money to buy new clothes. A sad state of affairs for any woman, let alone a teenager of 15 or 16.
And her gentle reminder to the (usually) very privileged worlds of media and politics that those less privileged are often forced into doing unpalatable things because they believe it will improve their circumstances is of course as relevant today as it was when she posed for cash 20 years ago. The Government’s own “social mobility tsar” only recently warned that even working parents in Britain do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
So it is with a sinking sadness that, despite her plea, I would guess most people – and more importantly most women, for she is representing their interests in the shadow cabinet – will only know who di Piero is because of these pictures. Or at a push, that she is one of the more attractive members of the opposition and once worked for GMTV (I include myself in this generalisation).
But as she herself quite rightly points out, one decision she made at 15 really has very little bearing on the type of politician she is now (and how aesthetically pleasing she is has even less). I doubt you would want your boss judging you on the basis of what you did – for money, for kicks, for respect among friends – during your teenage years.
So with a general election just over 18 months away, here are some things about de Piero – a possible future women’s minister – that actually give you an idea of the kind of person and politician she is.
She grew up in a poor part of Bradford, the daughter of Italian migrants, with a father forced to give up work through ill health and a mother who stayed at home to care for him. She probably had a slightly different upbringing to much of the current cabinet, whose combined wealth is said to be £70 million.
She’s voted against tuition fees, and raising the rate of VAT. She was strongly in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and in her maiden speech to Parliament spoke of the “false divide” between Big Society and Big Government, arguing for “an enabling Government who help people come together and look after their interests”.
She believes Page 3 is “completely out of date”, but understands why some women may see it “as a way out”, and wants to get more “normal, real women” engaged with politics. In 2012, she ran a campaign to find out why the public hates politicians, travelling round the country asking #whydoyouhateme. She is a “passionate defender” of public libraries, and says “we won’t rest” until gender representation in parliament in 50/50.
Remember – and judge her – for all of these things. Because the rest is a sideshow.
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