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Andrea Leadsom Supporters Marched On Parliament And It Was Bizarre

"Marching on parliament? I feel like a socialist!"

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Conservative leadership hopeful – and potential prime minister – Andrea Leadsom organised a rally in central London on Thursday morning in an attempt to boost support in today's ballot of MPs.

Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images

Leadsom, who was a surprise entrant into the race to replace David Cameron as party leader, is now just one of three remaining leadership candidates alongside home secretary Theresa May and justice secretary Michael Gove.

A junior energy minister who campaigned for Vote Leave in the EU referendum, she finished second in the initial ballot of MPs held on Tuesday.

Her parliamentary colleagues are voting on Thursday to reduce the three candidates to the final pair who will go forward to the ballot of 150,000 party members.

But the big fear among Leadsom supporters is tactical voting by Tory MPs who are desperate to stop her becoming party leader at any cost.

Leadsomania, as no one is calling it, hits Westminster. Hosting a rally filled with young Tories in Leadsom tshirts.

Leadsom supporters fear MPs backing Theresa May could tactically vote for Michael Gove to ensure he finishes second, keeping Leadsom off the final ballot and blocking her from having any chance of becoming PM.

This concern is backed up by Gove's campaign manager sending texts urging them to do *exactly that*.

Julian Brazier MP told BuzzFeed News some of his Conservative colleagues were holding Tory activists "in contempt" by suggesting "we can't let her near the ordinary party members because they might share the same values".

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So Team Leadsom organised a rally as a show of grassroots support to convince MPs there is an upswell of support for putting her on the ballot.

It was quite an event. Supporters were wearing special T-shirts. The room was packed. Leadsom was introduced as "our next prime minister". The audience clapped every single line. The people in the room adored it.

Journalists had been invited on the basis this was a "major speech on the economy".

Leadsom's "major speech on the economy" is over. Tim Loughton denies describing it as such.

However, it was quite short and not that in-depth about economics.

Her key message was aimed at people talking down Britain post-Brexit, while she insisted the economy was in good shape. "Already we can see that the forecasts of a disaster for sterling, for equities and for interest rates, have not been proven correct," she said.

"When we come to see the post-EU figures I expect to see continued growth," she continued to further applause. "I expect to see people buying goods, going about their normal business, buying their homes and, yes, enjoying a pay rise. I will expect high standards of company behaviour, recognising their obligations to their communities and to their employees. Mine will be a realistic but optimistic voice."

She said "prosperity should be our goal, not austerity" and called on the UK to "banish pessimists".

Journalists were invited to Leadsom speech, told Boris would intro - no Boris. No questions. March on Parliament with MPs but not Leadsom!

Whatever the reason, things suddenly became very bizarre as her supporters announced they would march through Westminster to parliament to support her candidature. The only problem was that these Tory activists weren't very used to marching.

These Leadsom backers are about to march on parliament. Not much experience of marching so more like summer drinks.

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The candidate was also missing.

I'm currently on a march for Andrea Leadsom. Andrea Leadsom isn't. She got in a car

But eventually they were off! And it was the most amazing march of chanting people in suits that parliament has ever seen.

Stop everything and watch this video of Andrea Leadsom's march on parliament.

In the middle is pro-Leadsom MP Tim Loughton, leading the chant of "WHAT DO WE WANT? LEADSOM FOR LEADER! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!"

And next to him, very awkwardly and looking like she'd rather be somewhere – anywhere – else, is Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers.

There's no way of sugar-coating it. A lot of people cringed when they saw this video. Including Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson.

.@jimwaterson is that Theresa Villiers *actually* clutching her pearls with discomfort at 4 secs from end? I thought that was just a saying.

She was a bit confused.

@jimwaterson I have. Just not in my own honour!

Still, the long march for Leadsom made it to parliament.

Wat Tyler, Oliver Cromwell... Andrea Leadsom?

One MP was overheard saying "I haven't marched since I was a student!", while another Leadsom supporter joked: "Marching on parliament? I feel like a socialist!"

But despite the bizarre event, there was a lot of genuine, heartfelt support for Leadsom becoming leader among the Tory members present.

Paul Hackett / Reuters

"Brexit has to be Brexit," said David Roach, who works in public relations and doesn't trust Remain-voting Theresa May to lead the UK out of the EU. "Brexit for her [Leadsom] will mean true Brexit."

Charlotte Sharman, chair of the University of Kent Conservatives, agreed: "What's [May] actually done? I don't think we could win an election with her. Andrea, you can relate to her."

Several activists approvingly suggested Leadsom could attract UKIP supporters back to the Conservative party.

Paul Hackett / Reuters

"The party needs a candidate that brings back disgruntled UKIP voters and members," said student Kane Blackwell. "I was a UKIP member and I left to join the Tories. I know people who would come back to the party if Andrea gets in."

Administrator Drucilla Summers agreed Leadsom could attract more support from followers of Nigel Farage's party: "There were quite a few people [in UKIP] who said when Cameron left that they'd consider coming back – I think because she'll symbolise the change in direction for the party with social justice. UKIP's the obvious connection but I do believe there will be people in the Lib Dems and centre-left coming forward."

Summers also said the public don't like Theresa May: "I don't know what she stands for, what her values are. She doesn't really smile. She doesn't come across in a way people relate to."

Many people gave other reasons for supporting Leadsom.

Just tried to vox pop some Leadsom supporters. Struggled.

In total three male pro-Leadsom activists on the march independently and unprompted told BuzzFeed News they found the potential Tory leader attractive when asked why they were voting for her.

Still, at 4pm we will find out whether Leadsom has made the ballot put to Tory members, leaving her just one step away from becoming party leader and prime minister.

Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images

Whatever happens, the Leadsom march on parliament will go down as a legendary event in UK politics.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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