Flop of the month: 'Mothergate' row leaves Andrea Leadsom's Tory leadership ambition in tatters

She was the great hope of many pro-Brexit Conservatives, but Andrea Leadsom's disastrous handling of a press interview and its aftermath brought her plan to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister to a grinding halt.

Bye: Leadsom announces her withdrawal (Credit: TV UK pool via AP)
Bye: Leadsom announces her withdrawal (Credit: TV UK pool via AP)

Has ever an individual risen and fallen so quickly in British political history? Possibly, but it's doubtful that in recent years such a catastrophic mishandling of the media has led so directly and so swiftly to such an ignoble demise.

Energy minister Andrea Leadsom was the surprise package in the Conservative leadership election, overtaking omnipresent Brexit campaigner Michael Gove to go head to head with Theresa May in the final two. She won support among pro-'leave' elements, with many liking her focus on traditional, family values.

Warning signs were there even before the fateful Times interview, with the South Northamptonshire MP failing to shake off questions about her tax affairs and accusations she had embellished her CV.

But the proverbial hit the fan on Saturday (9 July) after The Times interview in which Leadsom suggested that being a mother made her a better choice for Prime Minister than May, who does not have children, because she had "a very real stake" in the future of Britain.

Cue media outcry. But instead of issuing a retraction or apology – or sticking to her guns – Leadsom initially turned her ire on the newspaper, calling the story "appalling" and saying it did not reflect what she said. It did not wash, particularly after The Times published the transcript and recording.

The MP later apologised to May in an interview with The Telegraph, when she admitted she felt "under attack, under enormous pressure", before pulling out of the race on Tuesday.

Throughout the episode, Leadsom appeared like a flustered amateur alongside her stoic, statesman-like leadership rival.

For now at least, a combination of political naivety and media mismanagement has left Leadsom’s political ambitions curtailed.

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