Alexander Chancellor

Long life | 14 July 2016

Andrea Leadsom got it wrong: Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were all embarrassed by their offspring

When you are recovering from a stroke, you spend much of the time asleep. But when you are not sleeping, you are told that the most important thing you have to do is avoid stress. All doctors agree that stress is the main impediment to recovery. But how can you possibly protect yourself against it? The causes of stress can creep up on you from anywhere without warning, and there is nothing you can do about it; and lately I have been bombarded by shocks.

I was one of the ignorant for whom the victory of Brexit in the referendum was itself a shock, but this also set in train a whole bunch of further assaults on the nervous system. There was the resignation of David Cameron, followed by Boris Johnson’s sudden withdrawal from the contest to be his successor, which was brought about by his treacherous replacement Michael Gove who was joined in the race by my own local MP in South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom.

Mrs Leadsom had been little known nationally until she became an articulate advocate of Brexit during the referendum campaign, but I had been well disposed towards her. Although I had never met her, she had been supportive of a successful campaign to prevent the construction of a wind farm next to my house. My keenness for her waned a little when she emerged as an enthusiast for leaving the European Union, but I was still taken aback by her sudden decision to pull out of the battle to become Britain’s next prime minister.

The reason she gave for this was patriotic: that her challenge to Theresa May was delaying the country’s urgent need for a new leader. But I wonder if her will had not been sapped by the furore that had been whipped up by her remarks on motherhood in an interview with the Times? She claimed to have been ‘shattered’ by these ill-judged remarks, in which she had suggested that she, as a mother, had a greater ‘stake’ in Britain’s future than the childless Mrs May.

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