Notes on the Leadsom matter – Peter Hitchens

Notes on the Leadsom matter.

I enjoy probing issues that other people think are dead. A comment on the Leadsom affair has stimulated me into penning the following thoughts:

A contributor (Peter Sullivan)  wrote :

– “I have to disagree on The Times/Leadsom issue. I believe she most certainly spoke words which justify the headline ‘Being a mother gives me edge on May’. She said … **genuinely I feel that 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.**” (my emphasis) – Posted by: Peter Sullivan | 12 July 2016 at 10:46 PM

I would respond as follows: The Times headline was : ‘Being a mother gives me edge on May — Leadsom ‘

For this to be justified. Mrs Leadsom would have to have said words which actually state that being a mother gives her the edge over Mrs May. This is because this is the undoubted sense of the headline and the added ‘ – Leadsom’ clearly attributes this sentiment to Mrs Leadsom herself, personally.

The Times being behind a paywall, I cannot reproduce the whole article.

However, here are the direct substantive quotes attributed to Mrs Leadsom on this subject, in the page one summary of the interview which caused all the trouble,  in the order in which they appear and as they are juxtaposed by the newspaper (not necessarily the order or the context in which they were spoken, which we do not know as we have no access to any transcript of the complete interview, especially the questions asked):

  1. Mrs May “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.”
  1. “Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake.”

(Note that the above two are separate statements. We do not know how separate without a full transcript)

The reporters offer this interpretation. : ‘Mrs Leadsom, 53, who has two sons and a daughter with her husband, Ben, said that being a mother meant that the future of Britain was *more important* to her.

(But where in the following words is this comparison ‘more important’? “Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake.” It appears to me to be a free-standing statement about herself, probably offered in response to a question, containing no comparison with Mrs May)

They also write: ‘Mrs Leadsom made clear that she intended to highlight the difference over children in the campaign’. I have to say I have been unable to find any quotation which conveys such an intention to highlight this difference. She may have said this, but once again I can find no quotation of her saying so in the published material.

  1. *Asked to contrast herself with Mrs May*(my emphasis), she said: “I see myself as one, an optimist, and two, a member of a huge family and that’s important to me. My kids are a huge part of my life.”
  1. ‘”I am sure Theresa 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.” However, again, we do not know how closely these two segments occurred in the interview itself. Their juxtaposition in the text plainly influences the way in which the reader understands them, but does it correspond with the way in which they were spoken, or Mrs Leadsom’s intended meaning.

Read more: Notes on the Leadsom matter – Mail Online – Peter Hitchens blog

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