• Tory candidate criticized for comments in newspaper interview
  • Leadsom says her remarks about rival were misreported

Andrea Leadsom, who’s running second in the all-female race to be the U.K.’s next prime minister, defended her campaign after attracting criticism for comments suggesting that being a mother makes her a better leader. Rival Theresa May doesn’t have any children.

Mother-of-three Leadsom, who worked in fund management before entering politics, accused The Times of “gutter journalism” and said in comments posted on Twitter that the way the newspaper presented the interview was “the exact opposite of what I said.”

Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The Times reported Leadsom as saying that being a mother made her a better choice than May because she has a “very real stake” in the future of Britain. The controversy is the latest blow to the energy minister’s campaign, which has fallen further behind odds-on favorite May after questions about whether her resume exaggerated financial industry experience and doubts about her leadership. Home Secretary May is supported by the bulk of Conservative Party lawmakers.

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Prime Minister David Cameron resigned in the wake of the June 23 vote to leave the European Union, something he campaigned against, and says he will leave decisions about how and when to implement the split to his successor.

The Times and the Telegraph, two of the most influential right-leaning newspapers, both published opinion articles on Saturday saying Leadsom was not qualified to be prime minister. Bookmaker Ladbrokes said May was favorite to become the next Conservative leader and offered 10/1 that Leadsom would withdraw before the end of July.

“It was one way traffic for Leadsom but her comments have stemmed the tide of bets for the outsider,” said Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Donohue.

Britain’s impending exit from the EU has sent the pound down to a 31-year low, hurt consumer confidence, and led managers to suspend trading in U.K. real estate funds amid uncertainty about how the country will navigate its exit.

Leadsom, who supported the pro-Brexit campaign, has pledged to immediately invoke Article 50 if elected, starting the two-year withdrawal process. Legal experts have said that would be illegal without the approval of Parliament and threatened lawsuits. The first was filed this week by lawyers representing Deir Dos Santos, a U.K. hairdresser.

May, 59, has sought to distance herself from Tory infighting over Brexit. On Saturday she announced a clean campaign pledge, promising to ensure that the contest was “in good taste” and stays “within the acceptable limits of political debate.”

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