UK Parliament

Grammar school girl, star banker, mum of three, Christian and brilliant Brexiteer: ANDREW PIERCE on the woman who has her eyes on becoming Chancellor

Andrea Leadsom has impressed many voters who'd never heard of her before with her passionate and eloquent arguments for Brexit
Andrea Leadsom has impressed many voters who’d never heard of her before with her passionate and eloquent arguments for Brexit

Twelve months after she became an MP, Andrea Leadsom was warned by Chancellor George Osborne she would damage her ministerial prospects if she joined a Eurosceptic Tory revolt against the EU.

Leadsom, singled out as one of the brightest of the 2010 intake of MPs, responded in typically blunt fashion. She denies reports she swore at the Chancellor. But the conversation ended abruptly when Leadsom insisted that she would be backing a motion calling for a referendum on our EU membership.

The Chancellor – or at least his job – was very much on her mind this week during her negotiations with Boris Johnson before he abruptly quit the race to be Tory leader.

Leadsom, a leading figure in the Leave campaign, demanded the post of Chancellor, or Deputy Prime Minister in charge of negotiations for leaving the EU, as the price of her support.

When the shambolic Johnson failed to give her a written guarantee she would get one of the jobs, she entered the race herself. It was a typically resolute response from a woman who has impressed many voters who’d never heard of her before with her passionate and eloquent arguments for Brexit.

So who is the woman who has pitted herself against Theresa May, Michael Gove and the others for the Tory crown?

Leadsom, now 53, was born in Aylesbury and, having moved with her family to Kent, went to Tonbridge Grammar School. Unlike the Etonian prime minister she is seeking to replace, Leadsom does not come from a privileged background.

Home was a small terraced house in Berkshire. Her mother Judy divorced her father Richard – who ran a builder’s merchant – when she was four, and then brought up her three girls while studying to become a nurse. Four years later, Judy remarried and decided to run a furniture shop with her second husband.

Leadsom studied Political Science at Warwick University, then became one of the few women on a trading floor in the City as a trainee trading metals. She then moved to BZW, the investment banking arm of Barclays. In 1993, she married Ben, a businessman, and after a rapid rise through the ranks, she became the youngest director of Barclays at the remarkable age of 32, when she was appointed head of UK banking.

There was a hitch, however. She was promoted to the board when she was seven months’ pregnant, and was pressured to going back to work one week after giving birth. She recalled: ‘I really struggled because I was desperate to be with my child. I said to the bank ‘I can’t cope with the hours’. I was just never getting to see my son.’ She stuck with it for two years, and endured two miscarriages because of the stress of the work. When she requested a part-time role, the response was brutal. She was told: ‘We have managed without senior women executives until now, we certainly don’t need part-time ones.’ They paid her to go quietly.

Leadsom’s last big job in banking was as a fund manager at Invesco Perpetual. She also formed a buy-to-let property company with her husband. They have three children – Fred, 20, Harry, 18, and Charlotte, 12. She takes her daughter to school on the Underground, because during the week the family live in a cramped flat in Westminster. They also have a large 17th-century farmhouse in her South Northamptonshire constituency.

She’s a serious film buff, though not everyone will applaud her all-time favourite film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, which she watches at least once a year.

Leadsom is also an avid reader, with what you might call eclectic tastes. Her two favourite books are The Wealth of Nations, the magnum opus by 18th-century economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. She also admits to loving the Australian children’s classic Where’s The Wombat? which she read to all her children. She is often spotted in the pubs near her home, and is a committed Christian who is part of the Bible study class at Westminster.

At weekends, she retreats to her constituency home, where every Sunday she cooks a family roast. She is an avid supporter of the Northampton Saints rugby team.

Children are important to Leadsom, who runs a charity that helps families struggling to cope with the arrival of a new child. She strongly believes that the life chances for youngsters are profoundly affected by their experiences during their first two years.

After a spell as a councillor in South Oxfordshire from 2003-07, she became MP for the safe seat of South Northamptonshire in 2010. In 2014, despite that early disagreement with the Chancellor, she became Economic Secretary to the Treasury. But within weeks, she was engulfed in controversy.

Leadsom had put the shares in her buy-to-let property company, Bandal (from which she resigned as a director before she joined the Treasury), into trusts for the benefit of her children. Accountants say that while this is not illegal, it has the potential to reduce the inheritance tax burden. There was further criticism when it was revealed she had received £70,000 from a firm based in London – but owned by her Guernsey-based brother-in-law, financier Peter de Putron – via a holding company in the British Virgin Islands tax haven.

Leadsom’s husband Ben is a director of the firm which made the donation, which was used to pay the salaries of staff in Leadsom’s Westminster office. The revelations attracted criticism because the payment came from an offshore firm at a time when the Chancellor was promising to crack down on offshore tax loopholes. A spokesman for Leadsom said at the time: ‘The donations are made by UK companies, employing hundreds of UK staff, and generating UK profits – they are fully transparent and properly declared.’

After last year’s General Election, Leadsom was promoted to Minister of State at the Department of Energy. During the referendum, she has come into her own. She traded blows in the TV debates with her boss Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, who was on the Remain side.

A delighted Andrea Leadsom makes her bid for Tory leadership


Leadsom is second favourite at 5/2 in the leadership contest, but she will have to work hard to find widespread support among the grassroots Tory members who make the final decision

Leadsom impressed with her calm and reasoned economic arguments in favour of Brexit. But she was also privately critical of the Vote Leave campaign for not making a more robust economic case for leaving the EU, such as the possibility of striking new trade deals with the Commonwealth.

She was even more critical of Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, for allowing himself to be wheeled out by George Osborne to attack the Leave side. ‘I expect the governor will be significantly regretting getting involved in politics, destabilising the markets in the exact opposite to the way he should do, and I’m quite sure that he will be wishing he hadn’t done it,’ she says.

Since putting her name forward for the leadership, it has been pointed out that she does not have Cabinet experience. Her response? ‘Our current Prime Minister hadn’t been in government at all before he become leader and then prime minister.’

Highly principled and her own woman, she refused to vote for same-sex marriage. ‘I find myself genuinely torn … I cannot vote against a measure that would mean so much to the minority of homosexual couples for whom marriage is the ultimate recognition for their genuine feelings for each other. Yet nor can I vote for a measure that risks centuries of faith-based belief in marriage.’

Leadsom is second favourite at 5/2 in the leadership contest, but she will have to work hard to find widespread support among the grassroots Tory members who make the final decision.

There is already speculation that if frontrunner May wins, she will make Leadsom Britain’s first woman Chancellor.

Equally, Leadsom’s admirers point out that at 53 she has something in common with her political heroine Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady was 53 when she became Tory leader in 1975. It may seem like a long shot, but maybe history could yet repeat itself.

MP Andrea Leadsom makes her maiden speech in 2010

Leave a Reply

Help put the World to rights and leave a Comment

Notify of
Juliana Storace
Juliana Storace

Trust this lady. She and she alone can fulfill the voice of the people. Out is really out for Andrea. I wouldn’t trust Theresa to run my toilet attendance. She made a mess of uncontrolled migration and from outside the EU. She agrees with Sharia law(. God help us ) and certainly supported remain. How can we trust her to go into negotiations with her head up high, believing that we are better off out? We are in a better position than they are making out to be. We buy a lot more from the EU countries than they buy… Read more »

Christine Baker

We trust Andrea Leadsom for the post of leadership to get us out of the corrupt EU. We do not trust Theresa May

Ken Pemberton
Ken Pemberton

We cannot have a remain supporter becoming pm and supposedly negotiating Brexit with the EU.

Powered by: Wordpress
%d bloggers like this: