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by Liam Kirkaldy
07 July 2016
Sketch: Who is Andrea Leadsom?

Sketch: Who is Andrea Leadsom?

Andrea Leadsom - Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA 

You can tell it’s a Tory leadership contest when people start claiming to have been investment bankers to make themselves sound more, rather than less popular.

The contest is in full swing. And yet, with the party membership left to choose between two candidates – Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom – it remains hard to call.

May pulled ahead while Michael Gove was roundly rejected by MPs, probably because of the controversy surrounding his relationship with Boris Johnson, or possibly because he looks so much like an alien impersonating a human butler.


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The wild card though, is surely Andrea Leadsom. Many will not have heard of her until the EU referendum campaign, and even since then, when Leadsom has hit the headlines, it has mainly been for the wrong reasons. One Treasury source described her time in the department as a “disaster” and another said Leadsom was “the worst minister we ever had”.

Others have suggested she massively exaggerated her experience working in the financial sector.

Taking to the BBC, she cleared this up, saying, “I have been very clear. I am not a funds [sic] manager”.

 “I have never been a fund manager. I’ve never said I’ve been a fund manager and I have never been a fund manager”.

That was very clear, it was just seems slightly at odds with a statement in 2010, when she told the Commons “I have been in investment banking and funds management for 23 years. I assure the House that I have seen from all ends how clever bankers are when they want to get round something.”

It does seem a bit inconsistent. There is definitely a difference between never doing something, and doing it day-in day-out for 23 years. Maybe she forgot.

Whatever the reason, with the Tories voting today to whittle the contest down to two candidates, this was her last chance to win support and stay in the race. It was Leadsom’s moment to shine.

And so, taking to the stage in front of a mass of assembled supporters, she defended her part in the Leave campaign, arguing that the “the forecast of a disaster for sterling, for equities and for interest rates have not been proven correct.”

Yes, she said, the pound has fallen to a 31 year low against the dollar, but that is a good thing. The pound was too strong before. It needed taken down a peg or two.

The FTSE 100, she explained, is still “outperforming other global stock market indices”.

The consequences of the Leave vote are positive. So far, so good. So what were her principles? What drives Andrea Leadsom?

Smiling vacantly, she announced, “Prosperity should be our goal, not austerity”, adding, “I want to spread prosperity to every corner of our country. I want to help create more jobs”.

What did that mean? Her speech sounded like the sort of pitch that would get you thrown out of the Apprentice. Any moment you expected Alan Sugar to walk in and start berating her for failing to sell anything in a street market.

Continuing, she said: “We need, to hear and heed, those millions of our fellow citizens, who feel and fear, their country’s leaders are not worrying about them enough.”

This was a nice line, though it raised questions about why Leadsom has consistently voted against raising welfare benefits in line with prices, consistently voted against spending to create guaranteed jobs for young people, and consistently voted for the bedroom tax.

 “I want to see better training, smarter working”, she said, looking down at her notes and adding “yes, and higher pay for the many. I want to lead a nation where anyone who aims high can achieve their dreams.”

Finishing on a high, she raised both hands in the air, vowing, “Let’s banish the pessimists”.

A nice idea, and yet it’s hard to escape the feeling it was this sort of mentality that got us here in the first place.

From Michael Gove comparing economic experts to Nazis, to Boris Johnson denying there had been any repercussions from the Brexit vote even as the pound was collapsing, the Tories seem to have been overcome with a bizarre sense of optimism.

In fact in the run-up to the vote Leadsom herself had flat out rejected the idea Brexit could hit the economy at all. Speaking to Buzzfeed she said: “My best expectation, with my 30 years of financial experience, is that there will not be an economic impact.”

Whether that financial experience was in fund management remains unclear.

Of course no one knew what to make of the threats, or how realistic the prospect of a currency collapse really were. Most people under thirty will have no experience of this – for them Black Wednesday is just something bad that happened in the past, like Stagflation, or Noel Edmonds.

But with the economy in such a seemingly perilous position, this might be a good time to get someone with economic expertise, and knowledge of the markets, in charge of the Tory party.

Whether that person is Andrea Leadsom remains unclear.

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Read the most recent article written by Liam Kirkaldy - Sketch: If the Queen won’t do it, it’ll just have to be Matt Hancock

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