10 Jul 2016

Mum's the word for PM contender

12:28 pm on 10 July 2016

One of the two candidates vying to replace the British prime minister has caused an uproar by suggesting that having children made her a better choice to be prime minister.

In this combination of file pictures created on July 7, 2016, British Conservative Party leadership candidate Theresa May (L) arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 27, 2016 and British Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom (R)

Conservative Party leadership candidates Theresa May, left, and Andrea Leadsom remain in the running to be the next UK PM. Photo: AFP

Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May are competing to succeed David Cameron as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister.

A little-known junior energy minister until she became one of the most ardent voices in the Brexit campaign, Mrs Leadsom is the outsider in the contest to succeed Mr Cameron.

Mr Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to stay in the bloc, announced he would quit after the 23 June referendum delivered a vote to leave the European Union.

Mrs May, the interior minister who also advocated remaining in the EU, is the favourite to replace him.

"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," Mrs Leadsom told The Times newspaper.

"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 were denounced by many Conservative lawmakers and supporters of Mrs May, who used words like "vile", "divisive", "insulting" and "embarrassing" to describe them.

Mrs Leadsom said during a lengthy interview with the newspaper, she repeatedly made it clear she did not want the fact she has children and Mrs May does not to be a feature of the campaign.

She later said she was "disgusted" with the interview's presentation and denounced the article as "gutter journalism". She said the reporting had been "beneath contempt". An official complaint is being made to the paper.

'Gutter journalism' vs 'accurate journalism'

The journalist who did the interview, Rachel Sylvester, stood by her story.

"I don't think it's gutter journalism I just think it's journalism, it's accurate journalism. I asked a question, she answered it, I reported what she said.

"She's trying to become prime minister of this country - judgement and character matters as well as policy."

But Sylvester said she was "baffled" by Mrs Leadsom's reaction.

Mrs May, who has no children, has launched a "clean campaign" pledge and invited Mrs Leadsom to join her in signing it. Her campaign team has declined to comment on the story.

Mrs May spoke publicly for the first time last week of the sadness she and her husband Philip had experienced at being unable to have children.

Mr Cameron also refused to comment on the row, saying he was "playing no part" in the election and would say "absolutely nothing".

The Times headlined its front-page lead story: "Being a mother gives me edge on May - Leadsom."

Speaking outside her home in Northamptonshire, Mrs Leadsom said she was "disgusted about how this has been presented".

"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 in any way a feature of the campaign," she added.

"I want to be crystal clear that everyone has an equal state in our society and in the future of our country.

"That is what I believe and it is what I have always believed... this campaign must at all times be principled and honourable."

- BBC / Reuters

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