A Liberal Democrat MP has revealed she decided to go public about her same-sex relationship in part because journalists were “sniffing around” her family and friends and threatening to out her.
Layla Moran, a potential party leadership hopeful, said the Mail on Sunday had threatened to publish a story about her sexuality with less than 24 hours’ notice last week, but that she “pleaded with them to wait”.
She said she had not yet come out to her 92-year-old grandmother.
The Oxford MP announced on Thursday that she is pansexual – which means she is attracted to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender – and that she “fell in love with a wonderful woman” last year.
Writing in the i on Friday, Moran said: “I actually don’t think this relationship should have anything to do with my career, whether positive or negative. I want people to judge me for my work, not who I date.”
She said journalists had been “sniffing around this story” since October and had “asked friends, made indirect approaches, and more recently, very direct approaches to people I know, asking for information about my personal life”.
The MP subsequently claimed in the Independent that reporters had doorstepped the homes of an ex-boyfriend and former neighbours looking for information about her relationship with Rosy Cobb, as well as offering them money to talk.
Moran claimed she felt “intimidated” into making her announcement after the Mail on Sunday contacted her on Saturday last week and told her they would be publishing something the next day.
“I pleaded with them to wait,” she wrote in the Independent. “I hadn’t yet told my 92-year-old Grandma who reads their paper ‘just for the crossword’ and I couldn’t bear the idea she would see it before anything else.
“After a series of phone calls over the course of the day, they agreed to not write it last week, but I still believed they would publish this Sunday with or without me. So I told my grandmother and decided to take back the control that I feared would be stolen from me.”
The Mail on Sunday said in a story yesterday that it had approached Moran “last weekend with questions about whether her relationship with Ms Cobb represented a conflict of interest”.
Cobb left her role as head of media for the Lib Dems during the general election campaign after being accused of faking an email as the party made legal threats towards website Open Democracy.
The Mail on Sunday continued: “We agreed not to run a story after Ms Moran invoked her right to keep her sexuality private: she then announced it herself five days later.”
Moran wrote that this story framed her announcement as a “calculated plan” but said this “couldn’t be further from the truth”.
“While I am proud of who I am, it was the media who I felt intimidated me into doing it at a time, not of my choosing,” she said in the Independent.
“It’s possible that to some journalists and readers this is a jolly jape where they get one over me, but to me, this is my life.”
Writing in the i paper, Moran said: “I should say, this is absolutely not all journalists, but a select few who seem not to have got the memo that it’s 2020. The way that these journalists have behaved reminds me of something out of a 1960s film.
“At a time when good news reporting is under attack, in my view these unscrupulous journalists give the entire profession a bad name. In reality the vast majority I’ve spoken to about this are equally outraged. The world has moved on.
“It is no longer okay to threaten [to] out anyone in public life or otherwise. But the fact remains that not everyone believes this.”
Moran’s claim is reminiscent of those levelled at the media by Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, who said in September that a journalist revealed his HIV positive status to his parents before he had told them himself.
He said in a BBC documentary that he was forced to go public about his condition as a result of tabloid interest and would otherwise have stayed silent.