The Liberal Democrats could become the first party with an openly gay or bisexual leader.
MP Layla Moran says she is considering running to replace Jo Swinson, who lost her seat at the election.
And today she reveals to the Daily Mail that while she has had boyfriends in the past she is now in a lesbian relationship – and prefers to be labelled as ‘pansexual’.
Her girlfriend is the Lib Dems’ former head of media Rosy Cobb, who has since left the party after being suspended in a row over a faked email.
Miss Moran, 37, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, is the favourite to replace Miss Swinson following the Lib Dems’ disastrous election campaign in which they returned only 11 MPs.
Current girlfriend: Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran (right) and her girlfriend, the party’s former head of media Rosy Cobb
Announcement: Last night Miss Moran tweeted to declare she was ‘just happy’ after revealing she fell in love with a ‘wonderful woman’ last year
Speaking publicly for the first time about Miss Cobb, she said: ‘I’m talking about this because I’ve now been in this relationship for about six months.’
Miss Moran, the first MP of Palestinian descent – her mother is a Christian Palestinian – and the first female Lib Dem MP from an ethnic minority background, added: ‘We’ve got to the point where we’ve met each other’s parents. We’re in love. It’s a really loving stable relationship.
‘I definitely didn’t have the confidence to talk about this kind of thing, and certainly not publicly, but then I think of how many people may also be in the same position.
Lover quit over fake email claim
Layla Moran’s girlfriend Rosy Cobb was at the centre of a controversy during the general election campaign when the Liberal Democrats became embroiled in a row over a faked email and legal threats to journalists.
Miss Cobb, then the Lib Dems’ head of media, was suspended after the party’s press office was accused of altering emails.
The political website Open Democracy ran a story in mid-November claiming that the Lib Dems had sold supporters’ data to the Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum.
The Lib Dems started a legal fight with the website, arguing that they had sent a statement which had not been used. Open Democracy maintained that it had not received one.
The party forwarded an email they claimed had been sent – but the date it carried was the day before the request for comment had been made.
Miss Cobb was suspended pending a full investigation. She has now left the party.
‘Actually having someone talk about this who’s in the public eye – [I thought] that I might give them the confidence that I didn’t have to talk about it at the beginning.’
However, the former teacher, now her party’s education spokesman, admitted she was scared about going public. ‘I’m really proud of the journey I’ve taken, but I’m not going to shy away from the fact that it’s also really difficult on a personal level,’ she said.
‘I won’t lie and say that there isn’t a part of me that’s a bit scared about doing this because that’s what it means to be a member of the LGBT community. It’s not exactly something that’s always seen as a positive, but I’m proud of it, it is who I am, it is something that we need to be fighting for and I’m happy to talk about, because in the end I’m hoping that it’s going to help other people.’
Miss Moran said she decided to go public because she believes politicians have a duty to tell the truth about their personal lives.
Earlier this year, she admitted that she and her then boyfriend Richard Davis had been detained by police after a row at a party conference turned violent in 2012.
She admitted slapping the financial analyst because she felt ‘threatened’. She describes her actions as ‘defensive’. Charges against both were dropped and the relationship ended.
She is now in a relationship with Miss Cobb, who was head of media at the party where she oversaw press coverage and briefed MPs.
Ex-boyfriend: Layla Moran and Richard Davis on holiday in the Dominican Republic in 2010. They broke up after a row at the 2012 party conference
‘Initially it didn’t even cross my mind because I’d never been with a woman before, I’d only ever had boyfriends,’ Miss Moran said of when they met.
‘And as we got to know each other and we’d go out, drink and hang out, it was clear that there was something there. And, one day after a few glasses of wine, we got together.
‘It was definitely, firstly, a wonderful thing because I’d been single for a while at this point.
‘But then, obviously, it threw up all these questions I had about myself.’ She said that while she regards herself as bisexual, she identifies more as ‘pansexual’.
‘Under the old labels I’m bi – I’ve mainly had boyfriends in my life but I happen to be with a woman now,’ she said.
‘But then when I was researching what label [I am] comfortable giving myself, the one that really chimes with me is something called pansexual.
‘You don’t care so much about the gender, you are comfortable with your sexual fluidity.’
Miss Moran, the Lib Dems’ only LGBT MP, said she and Miss Cobb had been careful to ensure there was no conflict of interest with their relationship by working together less.
The couple had also spoken to the party’s pastoral officer, who had said there was no issue with them being together, she said. But Miss Moran said that the reaction of some people within the Lib Dems after Miss Cobb was suspended by the party over a faked email had prompted her to speak out.
Defeated: Former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, pictured right with Layla Moran during the general election campaign, lost her East Dunbartonshire seat on December 12
‘I would love to say that every person who reads this interview will go ‘So what, yeah, no one cares, society doesn’t care’,’ she said. ‘But what’s made me do this is actually the fact that Rosy was suspended at work.
‘And people, particularly in political circles, were saying: ‘Well, now people are going to know that you’re in a same-sex relationship. Don’t you think for the sake of your career that you should split up with her.’ And I just think that is totally wrong.’
She added that politics was becoming more inclusive of those from an LGBT background.
‘We have amazing role models like [former Scottish Tory leader] Ruth Davidson, [former education secretary] Justine Greening and [Irish PM] Leo Varadkar. These are amazing politicians who just happen to be gay.
‘But what I’d love us to get to is that we only talk about these people on their own merits.’
Speaking ahead of the Lib Dem leadership fight, which is likely to be held in March, Miss Moran said: ‘I’m seriously considering running but it’s an absolutely massive job, and the effect it has on your friends and family, and the scrutiny on not just you, but also them, means that it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.’
Miss Moran was elected MP for Oxford West and Abingdon in 2017 with a small majority, but increased it to 8,943 at last month’s election. She said that the party’s policy to revoke Article 50 and scrap Brexit had contributed to their defeat, adding: ‘I do think there was a problem with the revoke policy. The way it was framed sounded undemocratic.
‘We are definitely in a bleaker place than we were at the beginning of the election, and fundamentally, given that Brexit is now going to happen against all of our efforts to try and stop it, we need to almost go back to our roots, which is what are we, who are we.
‘Whoever takes over will have to deal with that.’