The Brexit hardliner refused to rule out another shot at the top job in future—but said she backs May to seek a good dealby Alex Dean / November 1, 2018 / Leave a comment
Only a few years ago, few outside politics had heard of Andrea Leadsom. Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire since 2010, Leadsom became a junior minister and then reached the lower ranks of the cabinet in 2015. But she flew below the radar. In the referendum she was a relatively low-profile Leave campaigner: at least compared with some names.
Yet today she is one of the most important political players in the Brexit debate. Leadsom shot to national attention in 2016 when, in the wake of the Brexit vote, she stood for the Tory leadership. When Boris Johnson combusted, she made it to the final round as the darling of the hardline Eurosceptics.
Her own implosion could hardly have been more dramatic: after a deeply controversial interview in which she said May’s lack of children put her leadership credentials in doubt, scandal ensued. She dropped out and May won by default.
Leadsom has been a controversial figure ever since. May brought her into the fold, first as environment secretary, now as leader of the Commons, but she remains a Eurosceptic troublemaker. Last month she hosted a “pizza summit,” allegedly for mutinous cabinet Leavers. With May treading a political tightrope over Brexit, and Johnson and David Davis having already resigned, any further power moves from Leadsom could light the Tory tinder box and drum up yet more speculation about the PM’s future.
Which is why I was surprised by what followed. When we met in her parliamentary office on Halloween, I opened with the obvious questions. Has the government lost its Brexit nerve? Will May keep her job for the long-term?
On this last one, she stirred up trouble. At the first time of questioning, Leadsom insisted that she remained “fully committed to this PM,” adding that her leadership is “a matter for her. Then arguably a slightly more ambiguous “all I can say is today, I am fully backing the prime minister to get us a good deal.” But asked if she would categorically rule out a future leadership bid herself, she replied: “I am not speculating.” Pressed further, she said: “Well, you know, I don’t play crystal ball games.” That’s a no, then.
Several hardline Leavers would welcome a future bid by Leadsom. Tensions in the Tory Party erupted after the publication of the Chequers plan, which would lock Britain into close alignment…