A shadow Cabinet member accused a news agency yesterday of trying to track down topless photographs taken of her when she was just 15 years old.
Gloria De Piero, who is the shadow minister for women and equalities, urged the media to call off the hunt for the images, explaining that she agreed to have the pictures taken because she was desperate for money because of poverty.
She said yesterday she had discovered that a news agency claiming to be acting on behalf of a national newspaper was offering several thousand pounds for the explicit photographs. The images were taken a photographic agency in Bradford without her parents’ knowledge.
Ms De Piero told the BBC yesterday that no-one in her household worked after she was ten years old because of her father’s ill health.
She was ashamed of her clothes as a teenager – even playing truant from school for that reason – and decided to pose topless to get some cash.
“I wanted some money, like my friends,” Ms De Piero said. “There are reasons why I thought they might be a way out for me, but I would respectfully say that I hope they are not published. I would find it embarrassing, humiliating.”
Their existence “says something about poverty, growing up in poverty”, she added.
In a message on her blog yesterday, the Ashfield MP said she learned about the agency’s actions on Wednesday.
She wrote: “The offer was made to the owner of a building in Bradford. I understand that he was offered money for access to the building and a further payment if the pictures were found.”
Ms De Piero, a former television journalist, said: “I thought at the time it was a way of improving my circumstances. This is part of my story and part of who I am. I can't change it now but this happened over 20 years ago.
“It is now time to call off the hunt for these pictures and let me get on with the job I was elected to do, representing the people of Ashfield and serving in the shadow cabinet.
“I don’t think anyone wants politics to be open only to those people who were planning their political careers in their teens. I would like to see a politics that represents our country, including many more women from all walks of life, and that is something I am passionately committed to help bring about.
“No one should have to worry that something they did when they were young might prevent them from serving their community or getting involved in politics.”
Ms De Piero this week condemned Page 3 pictures of semi-naked women as “totally out of date”. But she added: “I’ve always said I don’t blame the girls. I understand how they might think it would be a way out.”