The resignation of Andrea Leadsom as leader of the Commons has left Theresa May’s government on the brink of collapse.
She stepped down from her cabinet role on Wednesday in “yet another devastating blow for the prime minister”, says PoliticsHome, as bookmakers slashed the odds of May leaving office before the end of June to 4/6.
Leadsom was due to announce when the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed to implement the agreement between the UK and EU – would be introduced, but revealed that she could not do it as she did not believe in the plan.
She has also indicated she could throw her hat into the ring to succeed May, having dramatically pulled out of the last leadership race in 2016, handing the keys to Downing Street to her rival.
What did she do before politics?
Leadsom’s pre-politics career was in finance, as a banker and fund manager. Aged 30, she was financial institutions director for Barclays and so had a “ringside seat” to watch the collapse of Barings Bank, as she told ConservativeHome in 2016. She also worked for City employers including De Putron Fund Management – owned by her brother-in-law – and Invesco Perpetual.
What about the controversy surrounding her CV?
During the last leadership race, allegations surfaced that Leadsom had embellished certain details about her career in finance. A former colleague at the investment firm Invesco Perpetual, Robert Stephens, told the BBC that “she didn’t manage any teams, large or small and certainly did not manage any funds”. But Leadsom dismissed the accusations as “ridiculous” and said that her “incredibly varied” CV before entering politics was “all absolutely true”.
And in politics?
The 56-year-old has been South Northamptonshire’s MP for nine years and a cabinet minister for five. Before becoming energy minister in May 2015, she spent 13 months as the economic secretary to the Treasury. Under Theresa May she served as environment secretary for just under a year before becoming leader of the House of Commons, the role she resigned from on Wednesday.
What about her personal life?
A political science graduate from the University of Warwick, she was born Andrea Salmon and changed her name after marrying Ben Leadsom in 1993. The couple have three children together. She has described herself to The Daily Telegraph as a “very committed Christian”.
Leadsom says her faith is central to her political views – and it certainly lay behind her decision to abstain from the vote on equal marriage, when she was torn between wanting to support gay couples and not wanting to “risk centuries of faith-based belief in marriage”, she says.
She campaigned for Leave – so is she a born Eurosceptic?
No. In 2013, Leadsom said: “I think [Brexit] would be a disaster for our economy and it would lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty at a time when the tectonic plates of global success are moving.”
However, she came round to the Leave side sufficiently to share a platform with Vote Leave leaders Gisela Stuart and Boris Johnson during the referendum. She had previously called for the EU to be reformed, but says this didn’t happen in the way she had hoped.
What are her other political passions?
During the 2016 leadership campaign, Leadsom focused on her “three Bs – Brussels, banks and babies”, The Guardian reports. She set up a group of politicians calling for EU reform and has called for bankers to go to jail if criminality is proven in issues such as the Libor-rigging scandal.
Her grilling of former Barclays boss Bob Diamond over Libor won her “rave reviews from some political commentators”, says the Guardian. She also has a deep interest in the attachment theory of child-rearing, something she has set up charities to focus on.
So does she have a chance at the Tory leadership?
Her last leadership bid was torpedoed by a car-crash interview in which she appeared to claim she was more suited to the role of prime minister than Theresa May because she was a mother.
Since then her star has waned somewhat. She was generally regarded to be out of her depth as environment secretary and was effectively demoted after just one year.
However, she still has some powerful admirers and the earthquake caused by her resignation demonstrated she still carries considerable political clout.
Current frontrunner Boris Johnson threw his weight behind her campaign last time round, claiming she “offers the zap, the drive and the determination essential for the next leader of this country”. These words could yet come back to haunt him, although in a crowded field and with the former foreign secretary boasting a double digit lead among Tory members he could prove impossible to beat.