Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom is facing a backlash after suggesting that as a mother she was better suited to become Britain’s next prime minister than her childless rival Theresa May.
The two women have launched campaigns to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron as Conservative leader and the head of the government.
A little-known junior energy minister until she emerged as one of the most ardent voices in the referendum to leave the European Union, Leadsom is considered the outsider in the contest to replace Cameron.
Her uphill battle may become even more challenging after comments that were quickly rebuked across Britain’s political spectrum.
“I am sure she will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible,” Leadsom told the Times newspaper, which has declared its support for May.
“But genuinely I feel being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She 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.”
The comments came after May admitted in an interview this week that she and her husband had been saddened when they learned they were unable to have children. Leadsom and her husband have two sons and a daughter.
Leadsom took to social media to denounce the Times article as “gutter journalism”. After the comments were published, Leadsom tweeted a link to the story, saying: "Truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said. I am disgusted."
On Saturday she even made a televised statement outside her home to say she had made clear that the issue of her motherhood should not be a feature of the campaign.
“I want to be crystal clear that everyone has an equal stake in our society and in the future of our country,” she said.
The Times stood by its story and released an audio recording of Leadsom making the comments, which was played on Saturday morning news bulletins on all the main radio and TV stations.
May made no comment on Leadsom’s interview, merely tweeting: “Yesterday, I launched my clean campaign pledge and invite @AndreaLeadsom to join me in signing it.”
A ‘stake’ in the future
The comments made in the Times by Leadsom, a devout Christian who wants to swiftly launch the legal process of exiting the EU and end freedom of movement rights if elected, drew sharp criticism from several Conservative lawmakers.
“I am childless. I have nieces and nephews. I believe I – like everyone else – have a very real stake in our country,” tweeted Ruth Davidson, leader of the party’s Scottish arm, who had previously declared her support for May in the contest.
Lawmaker Alan Duncan, also a May supporter, called Leadsom’s comments “vile”, while colleague Antoinette Sandbach said Leadsom had shown “a lack of judgment”.
One of Leadsom’s most vocal supporters, junior defence minister Penny Mordaunt, defended her comments on motherhood.
“She was talking about what motivates her personally,” Mordaunt told BBC radio. “This is an attempt I think by a paper that has declared for the other candidate to smear Andrea.”
May and Leadsom were selected by Conservative lawmakers from an original field of five candidates. May was backed by 199 lawmakers, while Leadsom received support from 84. The contest now moves to the party’s 150,000 grassroots members, who will elect the winner by September 9.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-07-09