Far from being a mainstream figure, Andrea Leadsom has only soared to prominence in recent weeks. Much of the public would have been unfamiliar with her name until the EU referendum debate on June 9, when she stood as an advocate of Brexit. Since standing for the position of Prime Minister within the Conservative Party, as the Brexit candidate, she has received a boom in support.
We can attribute this sudden surge of popularity to the unresolved issue of the UK’s post-Brexit path. Leadsom is standing alone as a Eurosceptic candidate now that many leading Brexiteers have stood down, including former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Prime Minister hopeful Boris Johnson. Many have argued that a Eurosceptic MP should automatically assume the role of Britain’s Prime Minister, as they would have more drive in pursuing a prosperous future for Britain outside of the European Union — and this viewpoint very much works in Leadsom’s favour. While her more traditional Conservative stance may appeal to those who are uneasy with the socially liberal stance of today’s Conservative party, it’s clear that Euroscepticism is her prime asset.
Yet much of the mainstream media has come out in full throttle against Leadsom; even outlets that were pro-Brexit are attacking her. Initially, her work history was put under disproportionate scrutiny — for allegedly putting misleading job titles on her CV. Additionally, she underwent a tough bout of interrogation regarding her Christian faith, facing numerous personal questions in a Channel 4 News interview, which she had to answer in caution.
Yet the most alarming case is the extensive spotlight put on her comments regarding how she claimed how being a parent would make her a suitable leader. This led to a reference to Theresa May not having children — and was quickly seen by many as a stab that she was infertile. Portraying an ill-thought comment as a national outrage, many newspapers have hosted this comment as the main headline. Yes that’s right, out of all the pressing issues in today’s world, this comment was seemingly the most vital to report. Leadsom was quite rightly horrified at this, and how she has been vilified in such a manner.
The Sun, the Times and the Telegraph have all openly come out in support of her rival Theresa May. And lest we forget how influential the Sun has been in calling election results, and swaying public opinion, being the most read UK tabloid. Without fail, the Sun’s provocative and brash headlines have called every election result for decades, including the recent EU referendum. Therefore if Theresa May is being portrayed in a positive light, and put under comparatively less scrutiny; it seems as if Leadsom is being purposefully undermined.
To make it worse, much of the party will seek to undermine Leadsom. A key backer of hers — former Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith — has urged top Tory ministers not to lead a smear campaign against her. Many have not complied however. 20 Conservative MPs have warned that they will stand down if Leadsom became Prime Minister. Even many that won’t automatically resign in the case of a Leadsom victory will come out against her — such as ‘remain’ voters, who perhaps still secretly hope that the government will not comply with Brexit. Such civil wars within party politics clearly aren’t exclusive to the Labour Party.
For someone who has recently sprung up from a sideline MP, Leadsom will likely be feeling shocked from the heat of being a mainstream politician; a position where any minor detail of your personal life, past, or anything you say can be utilized as a weapon against you. And without question, this comparatively positive image portrayed of Theresa May will surely secure her lead, which is already a comfortable one. The media will reinforce her credentials, and help her sail to victory as the next Prime Minister. It could be difficult to pin down as to why the media is drawing such a scandal against Leadsom, but the implications of it are crystal clear.