Andrea Leadsom is a classic example of a smart, sensible, ambitious person who thought that the world does not need ‘spin’.
Like so many before her she apparently felt she should speak to the press in an open, straightforward way; honestly answering questions as they are put. It sounds perfectly reasonable. The problem is it doesn’t work. I have already pointed out in last week’s blog post that Leadsom was naive in her interview with Andrew Marr, who bounced her into a commitment to release her tax returns.
Andrea Leadsom: evidence of naivety
That she has now quit the race after a row over her interview with Rachel Sylvester of The Times is more evidence of her naivety.
Here is a transcript of the relevant bit of what she said, as published by The Times and republished on the Conservatives own website.
Andrea Leadsom: In terms of the country I think I absolutely understand how the economy works and can really focus on turning it around. In terms of personal qualities I see myself as one an optimist and two a huge member of a huge family and that’s important, my kids are a huge part of my life, my sisters my two brothers who are half brothers my mum and step dad’s sons who are very close, huge part of a family so very grounded and normal, enormously optimistic.
Sylvester: Does your family inform your politics?
Leadsom: Oh, totally.
Sylvester: During the euro debates, you said several times ‘as a mum’ . Do you feel like a mum in politics?
Sylvester: Why and how?
Leadsom: So, really carefully, because I am sure, I don’t really know Theresa very well but I am sure she 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 but, genuinely, I feel being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She 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. So it really keeps you focussed on what are you really saying, because what it means is you don’t want a downturn 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.”
Here is how Sylvester wrote it up:
Leadsom says she was disgusted by this write-up. Here is her statement on the report.
Andrea Leadsom: her complaints
Leadsom complained about two things.
- She says she told Rachel Sylvester repeatedly, that she did not want to make her family an issue in the campaign and yet the journalist did.
The Media Coach’s view: It’s no good telling a journalist you do not want to focus on something, speak about something or make something an issue if you then go on to talk about it! The quotes are still quotes.
- She is ‘disgusted’ that Sylvester, or the sub-editor, made the motherhood comments the headline of the story. Yet everyone knows the interviewee has no control over which bit of an interview is given the most prominence and which the least.
The Media Coach’s view: If you don’t want it as a headline don’t say it. If you don’t want it quoted, don’t say it. In an interview you are not briefing an advertising agency, you are talking to an independent journalist.
For the record, we should note that Leadsom apologised to Theresa May for the comments.
I recently had a heated conversation with a friend who explained she hated Tony Blair because every time he spoke you could tell he was really thinking about his words, which ‘proved’ he wasn’t genuine. Personally, I would prefer a Prime Minister who thought carefully about what they were saying before speaking in public, or in private for that matter. This does not mean they are not genuine, it just means they do not trust that their ‘stream of consciousness’ will give them the wisest choice of words.
The Media Coach verdict on Andrea Leadsom: this level of naivety means she was not ready to be Prime Minister, a conclusion she seemed to have reached for herself.
(A version of this article was published as a LinkedIn post.)
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