Just when it seemed like British politics couldn’t get any uglier, or more surreal, it did.
Over the weekend, Andrea Leadsom, one of the two leading candidates in the Conservative race to be the UK’s next next prime minister, said she had more of a stake in the future of the country because she was a mother. The comment was particularly loaded because it was clearly meant to draw a distinction between Leadsom and her main rival, another woman, Theresa May—who does not have children and has said that this has been very difficult for her and her husband.
Here’s how Leadsom responded in an interview with the Times when asked how being a mom (or “mum” in Britain) shaped her views on being the country’s next leader:
“I am sure Theresa 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, but genuinely I feel that 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.”
Leadsom dropped out of the race Monday (July 11), two days after she made the comments. Playing the mom card was only one of her many gaffes. She also exaggerated her CV, was reluctant to release her tax returns, and failed to gain a critical mass of support from her party.
With plenty of vexing questions facing the next prime minister and Brits of all stripes, irrespective of whether they have offspring—such as how to try and avoid a recession and renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world—her comments were met with a firestorm of protest.
After the interview appeared, Leadsom, a former banker and junior energy minister who entered parliament in 2010, said her comments were taken out of context.
That prompted the Times to release a transcript of the interview, with her saying pretty much exactly what the Times reported she had said. Leadom then apologized. “I’ve already said to Theresa how very sorry I am for any hurt I have caused and how that article said completely the opposite of what I said and believe,” she said.
With Leadsom out of the race, May, the home secretary, is now positioned to be the country’s next prime minister. She maintained her characteristic no-nonsense approach to the whole mommy-drama, telling the Telegraph that she and her husband had “dealt with” the fact they couldn’t have children and had “moved on.”