Brighton radio presenter who hoped to become UK’s first transgender MP leaves politics after losing selection battle
A Brighton radio presenter who hoped to become the country’s first transgender MP has “left politics” after failing to be reselected to contest the seat she fought at the last election.
The Labour selection process for East Worthing and Shoreham became fraught in May when the candidates shortlisted alongside Sophie Cook withdrew their candidacy following questions over a former company of hers going bust – effectively halting the process.
Later that month, Labour’s HQ said it intended to re-run the selection, with Ms Cook automatically being shortlisted without being interviewed by a local panel in the normal way.
However, despite continued backing from both Momentum and the Unite union, she ended the contest in third place, with Shoreham councillor Lavinia O’Connor winning the selection and become Labour’s East Worthing and Shoreham Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC).
A party source said: “Sophie still had union and Momentum backing despite everything. None of the activists wanted her so she drew her support mainly from the non activists.
“She wouldn’t step down even though the tide had turned against her.
“When she was eliminated from the contest in third place she stormed out without waiting to congratulate the winner.”
The selection meeting was held on September 14. The morning after, Ms Cook tweeted: “Thank you to everyone that has supported me over the past 18 months that I have been involved in politics.
“I’ve had a wealth of experiences, some good, some not so good. To the 20,882 people that voted for me in the General Election last year, I send my eternal thanks.
Ms Cook, who won SMELabour’s PPC of the year in December and who was selected to take part in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, has since updated her Twitter bio to include the line “used to do politics”.
When asked if she was still a member of the Labour party, or would encourage people to vote for Ms O’Connor at the next election, Ms Cook refused to comment.
The original row came after the local selection panel had shortlisted Ms Cook, but became aware of questions hanging over the liquidation of her former company, Seeker Photography Ltd, which published a free newspaper in Poole and went bust owing almost £90,000 in 2013.
Last year, its liquidator Simon Renshaw’s wrote a report outlining how its directors, Ms Cook and her then wife Dawn, had borrowed more than £20,000 from the company to supplement their salary – money which they now had no realistic way of repaying.
The local panel called her in for a further interview, and it’s alleged she could not satisfactorily answer their questions. However, their request to drop her as a potential candidate was vetoed by Labour HQ, leading to the other candidates dropping out in protest.