PollardThe comment ‘allegedly’ made by prospective PM Andrea Leadsom that she has some sort of moral edge over her Tory leadership rival Theresa May on account of her being a mother and May not being one was quickly rubbished by Leadsom following its appearance in a Times headline; but many women will have understood the sentiments implicit in the comment. There is a particularly smug school of female thought that regards a woman as somehow incomplete if she hasn’t given birth. The woman who hasn’t done so due to biological deficiencies is patronisingly pitied – which won’t make her feel any better – whereas the woman who has deliberately chosen not to populate the planet with offspring is viewed with suspicion and regarded as a virtual social pariah.

There are few cliques more intimidating to a young woman than the motherhood club, especially when those who have recently joined are so vocal in their praise of it. What takes aback those who are unqualified to join is the dramatic alteration in women who previously had a wide range of interests and conversational topics suddenly being reduced to baby bores. They spurn old friendships and instinctively gravitate towards those who share their new solitary passion; and on the odd occasions they find themselves in the company of women outside of the Masonic motherhood, they assume a photo gallery of their beloved sprog is as great a source of fascination to their unfortunate companions as it is to them.

The women’s movement spent decades deconstructing the ancient stereotypes of the female sex, yet the pressures upon today’s women to blend the old roles with new ones in the form of multitasking – career and family, not one or the other – means motherhood cannot be avoided as an issue; even when a career has taken precedence, there is the assumption that a family will still come, albeit a little later than expected.

Pop culture heroines laughingly labelled ‘feminist’ like Bridget Jones have also served to reinforce archaic attitudes, almost as though there was a conspiracy afoot to put women back in their place. Granted, the whole movement did suffer from poor PR for quite a while, giving the impression that all women interested in improving their lot were a bunch of short-haired and humourless butch dykes in dungarees; but an overtly feminine reaction to that misconception was inevitable, and with it came celebrity mothers wearing their children as fashion accessories.

A smart, sexy and witty woman in the public eye such as TV historian Lucy Worsley has had her stated choice not to have children added to her evident eccentricities by a press that still cannot understand a woman who doesn’t have childlessness thrust upon her, but makes that decision of her own volition. Worsley’s response is to claim she has been ‘educated out of the normal reproductive function’ – a shrewd statement worded in a way guaranteed to wind up those who view Worsley’s personal choice as an unnatural affectation. The prevailing belief amongst some is that childlessness, as with death, is something that belongs in the hands of a higher power and not the individual it affects; it should visit without receiving an invitation, and its appearance should always be unwelcome.

Quite how childlessness can be regarded as an impediment to a successful career as a woman MP seems illogical to me. Traditionally, the long hours in Parliament and the late-night debates were always more of a problem for the female faculty at Westminster than the male one; and even though these traditions have been modified in recent years, the workload of any Cabinet MP who has both the business of high office and their constituency to cope with could hardly be helped by also having to fulfil the role of mother, a role which is bound to be rendered part-time. One would imagine not having that additional burden would be an advantage.

Andrea Leadsom’s mother boast, in a similar vein to Sadiq Khan’s ‘my old man’s a bus-driver’ routine, is about as relevant to her bid for the premiership as Sarah Palin’s ‘soccer mom’ cobblers was to her bid for the US Vice-Presidency; by falling back on such clichés, she undermines the efforts of other women in her position to be looked upon as equal to their male colleagues and not to be made a ‘special case’ of. Both she and Theresa May got where they are today without the condescending leg-up of all-women shortlists, so why feel the need to emphasise a specifically female trait? Do male MPs make a big deal about being fathers?

Andrea Leadsom’s comment – one she denied, yet the released recording appears to confirm it – smacks of the inexperience in dealing with the media that the rival Conservative camp are employing as one of many sticks with which to beat her. Granted, there are numerous MPs of many years’ standing who suffer from slip-of-the tongue syndrome – Ken Clarke is a still-active veteran of it; but what should be a positive development, that of two women running for the country’s top job, being currently dominated by an argument over whether or not one contender is more valid than the other simply because she has children is a rather depressing debate of a kind we should have left behind by now. It shouldn’t be a barrier to becoming PM; after all, there was no Mrs Heath for Ted to parade before the press, and her absence didn’t damage his chances.

© The Editor


  1. Some male MPs make a supreme effort to underplay their efforts at fatherhood – Cecil Parkinson for one and, if he was being honest about their volume, the trouser-careless Boris Johnson.

    It really should be a non-topic, but it smells very much like a well-planned party-establishment job, trapping the relatively inexperienced Leadsom in the interview, then using every media channel at its disposal to emphasise that ‘error’ in support of its preferred candidate, Non-Mother Theresa.

    Leadsom was indeed unwise to fall into that trap – in her place, she needs to focus on those hot-buttons which will play well wih the narrow group that is Conservative Party members at large, not the whole electorate this time, and I’m not sure the ‘motherhood’ badge would be a big winner in the Shires anyway. If anything, it displays a lack of analysis of what the current task is – that is just to win the leadership, anything else is irrelevant right now, it can wait.

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  2. Motherhood and apple pie… when is she bringing out her baking credentials? Let’s see ’em both on the Great British Bake Off (right, sexist bollocks over…)

    You remind me that at another place I was criticised for being a “childless liberal” with no stake in the future. My reply to that stands – why do I volunteer with children, why do I pay taxes towards healthcare for children and pregnant mothers and for education? Because I don’t see the world ending with my death and I’d rather there was a better future for everyone. While Mudplugger may have a point that Leadsom was naively lead to a well and drank deeply of its poison, she is stupid to think we childless people don’t care passionately about the future. She did rather put herself on a pedestal and she deserved being shoved off it.

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  3. I am with Mudplugger on this one. We have had Project Fear, then Project Punishment, then Project Guilt and Grief. Now it’s Project Smear. It is interesting: I heard Fatty Pickles on the radio yesterday, in a patronising, sneering and bullying way saying that she shouldn’t stand. No, it would be most convenient if an “outsider” stood; not one of the boys, so to speak. Oh: did you see what I did there?
    My twitter time line has proved interesting. I like to think it is quite balanced; largely I Tweet about my cats or about cake. But it became quite apparent to me in the weeks before the Brexit Vote that there was something of a grass roots rebellion going on: committed, ardent, and unwilling to be intimidated. Unlike Generation Snowflake, it was totally committed to actually getting out an voting. And it did.
    Once again, my “time line” is filled with rebellion: it is NO WAY MAY.
    Looking at this, and at events in the Labour Party could we possibly be in a position whereby the Established Political Class is actually facing a real revolution? Probably not, but these are interesting times.
    Speaking of which (or going off on a tangent) I was made aware that whilst all the footie was going on last night, there was something of a kerfuffle going on near the fanzone at the Eiffel Tower. This was given little coverage on “the media” and when it was, explained as a problem with over exuberant fans trying to get into the party.
    It looked like a full on riot to me looking at the photos circulating . I am increasingly learning to mistrust “the media”. I feel I am living in The Hunger Games. It’s worrying.

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  4. Further on the ‘Paris kerfuffle’, there appears to be some highly-coordinated ‘news suppression’ of such events going on, as if to prevent our ‘new revolutionaries’ from moving into areas somewhat more active than merely voting ‘Leave’ or selecting the ‘wrong’ party leader.
    Yesterday I read of a full-on riot in Germany, burnt-out cars etc., but I only read of it in the Australian media, nothing over here. Similarly, nothing is being reported now of the ongoing reaction to the brutal EU-imposed austerity in Greece, although I can’t imagine that the demo-loving Greeks are just bending over and taking it every day without a hint of reaction and the odd smashed plate or two, yet news there is none.

    It’s not so much about what the media does report and how it reports it, but what it doesn’t report – and that begs the question of why it doesn’t and who’s pulling so many strings so often to suppress what we shouldn’t be allowed to know. A free press, eh ?


  5. Perhaps Leadsom thought the wholly incontrovertible offspring would be a useful addition to her CV? (It seems that some of her claims re. financial positions she held were rather, er, over-egged.) And has she published her tax returns yet? She indicated that she would do so if she reached the final two of the leadership contest.

    Not that Theresa May is any better a candidate. Talk about a rock and a hard place!

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  6. Hahahahaha: The prospective Fecund First Minister has withdrawn. (Sigh of relief…)

    I’m not one to call Mrs May “Darling”, being metropolitan, liberal left(ish), but she made enough noises to appeal to me in her leadership speech this morning. Of course it could be more noise than signal and can we ever believe anyone who wants power that much? But anyways…. whooo, hang on tight and scream if you want to go faster… or are we screaming because we just want it to stop? Interesting times (well, we’re all becoming Chinese now, aren’t we?).

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    1. Been out all morning and caught the headline at the end of ‘The World at One’. Cue afternoon spent scribbling away! Good job I posted this one at 1.30am.


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