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What You Need To Know About Andrea Leadsom's Motherhood Row

Leadsom told the Times being a mum would make her a better PM than Theresa May, who does not have kids. Leadsom has accused the paper of "gutter journalism", despite a full transcript and audio of the interview being released.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Andrea Leadsom is in the middle of a major row over comments she gave to the Times newspaper suggesting being a mother gives her an advantage over Theresa May in the race to become Tory leader, and prime minister.

The row began when the front page of Saturday's Times was tweeted last night.

Saturday's Times: Being a mother gives me edge on May — Leadsom #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

The energy minister is quoted as saying she would be a better prime minister as she has a "very real stake" in the future of the country.

Leadsom, 53, and her husband have three children, while home secretary May has spoken of her sadness of not being able to have children with her husband.

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Leadsom told the Times that May "possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next."

She added: "Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake."

After the comments appeared online last night, all hell broke loose.

@suttonnick Abseloutely outrageous thing to say, and further proof she hasn't got the wit to be PM. Britain's Sarah Palin

HAVING 👏 KIDS 👏 DOESN'T 👏 INSTANTLY 👏 MAKE 👏 YOU 👏 A 👏 GOOD 👏 PERSON 👏 YOU 👏 PRICK https://t.co/XD37vusH7u

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No matter what trouble my party is in, this is disgusting. Leadsom should not be our Prime Minister. https://t.co/UtnikFgdj9

This is disgraceful, low politics. I really hope the Conservative Party don't fall for this. https://t.co/AVkLY3zTxQ

Cabinet source: "Ugly. The thing is she'll have no idea how offensive it is." https://t.co/WWkpKYrflj

Andrea Leadsom tweeted shortly afterwards to say she was "disgusted".

Truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said. I am disgusted. https://t.co/DPFzjNmKie

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She tweeted at the Times to criticise the paper's "despicable and hateful" reporting.

@thetimes This is despicable and hateful reporting. You must now provide the transcript - this is beyond disgusting.

@thetimes @RSylvesterTimes this is the worst gutter journalism I've ever seen. I am so angry - I can't believe this. How could you?

Former Tory MP Louise Mensch was among those who defended Leadsom, and effectively accusing the Times of making up the quotes.

@andrealeadsom I knew it! I knew it! Demand the unedited transcript x

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@cathjdean @suttonnick She never said the words in the headline.

@CalgaryDignity @suttonnick @ifanmj @AntsRealityBlog it's bollocks tho. It's just a smear & you guys fell for it.

But then the Times *did* provide the transcript of Leadsom's quotes.

Leaving Leadsom a little lost for words.

@BethRigby @thetimes Where is the rest of it?

The Times journalist who interviewed Leadsom, Rachel Sylvester, appeared on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday morning to discuss the story, where the audio clip of the relevant part of the interview was played.

Listen to the key part of our interview with Andrea Leadsom https://t.co/rTCXNWPRps

That awkward moment where you denounce a journalist for misquoting you... and they produce the audio recording. #Leadsom

Just head the Leadsom audio. It's even more horrifying than the transcript. "I have CHILDREN." (Her emphasis).

In a statement issued to the BBC, Leadsom said she the reporting of what she said was "beneath contempt".

"In front of the Times correspondent and photographer, I made clear repeatedly that nothing I said should be used in any way to suggest that Theresa May not having children had any bearing whatever on the leadership election," she said.

"I expect the Times to retract the article and the accompanying headline."

A spokesperson for the Times told BuzzFeed News: "We stand by our story, and have released the transcript and audio recording of the relevant section."


Home secretary May, 59, has hinted at sadness at not being able to have children with her husband, Philip. She told the Mail on Sunday last week: "Of course, we were both affected by it. You see friends who now have grown-up children, but you accept the hand that life deals you. Sometimes things you wish had happened don’t or there are things you wish you’d been able to do, but can’t. There are other couples in a similar position."

Her campaign has not responded to Leadsom's Times article, but on Saturday morning she tweeted her pledge to run a "clean campaign", and called on her opponent to join her.

Yesterday, I launched my clean campaign pledge, and invite @AndreaLeadsom to join me in signing it -TM

It is, however, debatable as to how much of an impact the row will have on the Tory leadership campaign. Leadsom's supporters online so far seem to be backing her version of events.

A few people on Twitter have turned on Leadsom. Let's see how her ordinary Facebook fans feel about The Times. Oh.

The Times website, usually behind a paywall, has made its Leadsom interview free to read.

UPDATE

Speaking outside her home in Northamptonshire, Leadsom said:

"In the course of a lengthy interview yesterday, I was repeatedly asked about my children, and I repeatedly made it clear that I did not want this to be in any way a feature of the campaign.

"I am disgusted at the way this has been presented. I want to be crystal clear that everyone has an equal stake in our society and in the future of our country. That is what I believe and it is what I have always believed. I have repeated my instructions to my campaign team that this campaign must at all times be principled and honourable."



Matthew Champion is a weekend editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at matthew.champion@buzzfeed.com.

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