The Conservative party leadership contest appeared to further step up in intensity on Friday as challenger Andrea Leadsom was reported saying she was the best choice for Prime Minister because she had children.
The former investment banker told The Times that her rival, Home Secretary Theresa May, must be “really sad” not to have children and argued her offspring meant she had more of a “stake” in the future of Britain.
The comments come just days after Ms May called for a “clean campaign” to improve the image of politicians to the public after the bitter debate surrounding the EU referendum.
On Friday evening, Ms Leadsom took to Twitter on Friday evening to offer a swift rebuke of the report and demand the paper provide a transcript of the interview.
She wrote: "Truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said. I am disgusted."
But The Times reported Ms Leadsom as saying Ms May “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.
“Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake.”
Ms Leadsom said she saw herself primarily as “an optimist” and secondly as “a member of a huge family and that’s important to me. My kids are a huge part of my life.”
Recently, Ms May had expressed sorrow at not having been able to have children with her husband, pension fund manager Philip May.
The favourites in the Tory leadership race
The favourites in the Tory leadership race
1/5 Theresa May
The longest-serving Home Secretary in 100 years took a back seat in the referendum campaign. While backing Remain, she did not hit the campaign trail and delivered only a handful of speeches and interviews, and was critical of many aspects of the EU, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights. Hedging her bets allows her to now emerge as a ‘unity’ candidate, and she is said to have been building up her back-room staff in preparation for a leadership bid. She has the significant advantage of having served in one of the great offices of state, in a steady and competent manner that has won her many admirers within party and the civil service. At a time of great instability, it may be that she is viewed as steady hand on the tiller. Mrs May does however, lack the ‘star quality’ of a Boris Johnson and party members may doubt her ability to connect with ordinary voters
2/5 Michael Gove
The Justice Secretary may be able to set himself up as ‘the thinking Tory’s Brexit candidate’. Made an enormous political and personal decision to back Leave, taking on his old friend David Cameron. He performed well during the TV debates, and will be an admired figure among Eurosceptic Conservatives. Along with Johnson, he will be hindered by the fact that he led a very divisive campaign, characterised by ‘blue-on-blue’ action. MPs may also judge that he lacks Boris Johnson’s wider appeal with the electorate. Possibly more likely that he will settle for being his new bosom buddy Boris’s Chancellor
3/5 Stephen Crabb
Highly-rated Work and Pensions Secretary, raised on a council estate, so could reach out to non-traditional working class Tory voters
4/5 Andrea Leadsom
Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change is one of the most prominent figures in the Leave campaign, seen to have performed well in TV debates
5/5 Liam Fox
British Conservative MP and former Secretary of State for Defence, as sources said he will stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party
However, Ms Leadsom told the newspaper: “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.”
Despite this, she implied she had more to lose from a poor economy because her children would lose out too.
“It means you don’t want a downturn,” Ms Leadsom said, “But, never mind, ten years hence it will all be fine. My children will be starting their lives in that next ten years so I have a real stake in the next year, the next two.”
The Conservative party leadership contest has already been marked by somewhat Machiavellian tones. Previous favourite, Boris Johnson, was brutally outmanoeuvred by his former Leave running mate, Michael Gove, who unexpectedly chose to enter the proceedings. But Mr Gove is now also out of the running for leadership.