The two-woman finale of the Conservative Party Leadership contest is coming perilously close to a serial comedy car crash.
The big question is what will the increasingly flaky Andrea Leadsom be caught at next?
She had clearly heavily egged her narrative on her former jobs in the City of London – a narrative bought without investigation by the senior right wingers in her party who support her and who go weak at the knees at the sight of the cleavage and legs Leadsom is constantly willing to put out there.
Then there’s that smile – often visibly switched on and gone in a flash under pressure – as was seen when Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, had the Leavers on the ropes during the last televised debate.
Her tax affairs appear to be giving her trouble in publishing, since she has now missed the deadline she set herself to make them public were she to be one of the final two contenders to – hold your breath – be Prime Minister of Britain.
Today she is reported by a respected journalist in The Times to have , in an interview, expansively detailed the difference between herself – ‘a mum’ – and her childless opponent, Home Secretary, Theresa May.
Leadsom kindly imagined the sadness Theresa must feel.
She said that Theresa may have ‘nephews, nieces and lots of people’ but that she herself has children who will go on to have children [her certainty on this matter would seem to be in advance of chance and biology] – and that the fruits of her womb give her an investment in the country’s future of far greater substance than anything May can manage.
When Sky News’ late press review last night focused on this Times story for today – to unanimous horror at the awfulness of Leadsom’s electioneering tactic – one of the guests, Alex Deane – who was Chief of Staff to David Cameron as Shadow Secretary of State for Education – and who is a Brexiteer, declared himself to be supporting Andrea Leadsom for the leadership ‘… but Boy, does she make it difficult’.
Within minutes the smiling one had tweeted to say that she was horrified and that ‘this is the exact opposite of what I said’.
It is hard to work out just what ‘the exact opposite’ of what she has been reported to have said might be – and how it might remotely be credible.
Did she say that she herself has no children and May has a homegrown football team? Did she say that her children are an impediment to her connection with the affairs and the future of the country; and that May has the edge in her greater freedom to focus on the big issues? Of course she can have said neither ‘exact opposites’ to what is reported.
Leadsom went on to tweet [not phone or write to The Times – both so tediously private] in emotive terms on the newspaper’s ‘hateful journalism’ and demanding that they produce a transcript of her interview to support what has been reported.
The BBC is this morning carrying in this article what appears to be that transcript and Leadsom is now rowing back hard, complaining only about the ‘presentation’ of what she would seem to accept that she said.
The reality is that no one could have made this one up and the journalist is a widely respected one who would have no reason to go so spectacularly off piste – whereas, as was endlessly manifest during her two Brexit debate performances, Leadsom’s sales mantra throughout was ‘as a mum’. Objectively, the balance of probability is against her.
There are those tax returns to come – and what else?
Never has May’s sober straitlaced competence been so compelling.
John Donne’s 17th century unforgotten declaration settles a few issues here. He said: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’
Not personally having children, by choice or by happenstance, has never been a barrier to empathy and connection. And Britain has become that clod, literally washed away by the sea and leaving Europe the less.