Rother Valley Labour candidate rapped on the knuckles for social media strip club row

The Labour candidate to replace Sir Kevin Barron in Rother Valley attended a rally against the closure of a strip club where campaigners allegedly uncovered dancers broke rules over touching customers.
Labour PPC for Rother Valley, Sophie Wilson. Photo: JPI MediaLabour PPC for Rother Valley, Sophie Wilson. Photo: JPI Media
Labour PPC for Rother Valley, Sophie Wilson. Photo: JPI Media

Spearmint Rhino in Sheffield found itself at the centre of a controversy earlier this year when a secret recording taken by equality campaigners allegedly showed dancers “sexually touched customers” and other breaches of rules.

Subsequent inspections by Sheffield City Council found no evidence the club's management was aware of the breaches, the contracts of dancers involved were ended, and ultimately the council’s licensing committee allowed the venue to stay open.

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But the Huffington Post reported that Sophie Wilson, Labour’s pick for the South Yorkshire constituency where long-term MP Sir Kevin is retiring, went to a rally against the potential closure of the club, although Ms Wilson said she was there to support the workers rather than the establishment.

Ms Wilson, who is also a councillor for Beighton on Sheffield City Council, said: “I attended a rally organised by unionised women workers campaigning against the closure of the club because they did not want to lose their jobs. I attended to show my support for them as workers, not to support their exploitative employer.”

She added: “I am proud of my record of defending workers’ rights.

“I support the rights of women working in sexual entertainment venues to unionise and organise within their workplaces. That does not imply any support for exploitative employers.”

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The incident also caused tensions to flare on social media, and prompted a complaint to Sheffield City Council against Ms Wilson after she branded those against the club as “trashy SWERFs” (sex worker exclusionary radical feminists).

The council concluded Ms Wilson may have broken the code of conduct and the use of the terms “SWERF” could be provocative and other messages were “confrontational”.

Ms Wilson was given guidance on the use of social media.

Ms Wilson added: “I believe all debate should be conducted in a comradely and respectful manner and I welcome discussions about how best to support women who are suffering from exploitation in their workplace.”