“I think she’s the victim of a mega stitch up. I think she’s been treated, actually, by the media very much the way I was back in 2014 like just get the feeling that if you really challenge the establishment they become back and bite you very very hard”.
These were the words of the outgoing UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage on LBC radio on Sunday morning, as Britain’s newspapers launched into another barrage of hatred against the socially conservative, pro-Brexit candidate to be the next leader of the Conservative Party.
Whoever the next leader is also becomes the next Prime Minister. In the UK’s parliamentary democracy, if a Prime Minister resigns, the party that won the last election gets to choose the next leader of the country without a general election, because in such a system, the PM is not directly elected like a President.
The race for the premiership in Britain since David Cameron’s post-Brexit resignation has been whittled down to two people by the Conservative Parliamentary Party (another quirk).
The two remaining candidates are the Brexiteer, former City worker, mother, and socially conservative Andrea Leadsom. The other: the 6-year-long Home Secretary who used to work for the Bank of England Theresa May.
May, who campaigned for ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum, calls herself a “liberal conservative” – and for U.S. audiences, she is probably best compared to Mitt Romney.
As such, the establishment has fallen in line behind her, with media stitch-up attempts from the Times newspaper, and ringing endorsements from the Sun, the latter of which formally backed Brexit.
It may be seemingly odd that these Murdoch-owned papers now find themselves in agreement with Remain campaigners and those on the political left in calling for May to be premier, but those who know the way Murdoch’s establishment operates will be cognizant of the fact that his papers are a) not at all “right-wing” as they are portrayed by the left; b) more about corporate interests and; c) probably still quite grateful that Ms. May tried to run interference for them during the phone hacking scandal.
The Mail on Sunday, this morning, published an article claiming that Britain First – a hardline nationalist group – backs Ms. Leadsom. Yesterday, the Times newspaper alleged that Ms. Leadsom was using the fact that she had children and Ms. May does not as a campaign talking point.
Many conservatives believe that this is indeed a boon to Ms. Leadsom. But far from how the story was couched in the press, it now appears the Times pressed her repeatedly on the issue before finally eliciting the answer they wanted in order to run the headline: “Being a mother gives me edge on May – Leadsom”.
What Ms. Leadsom actually said, however, was: “So really carefully because I don’t know Theresa really well, but I’m sure she will be really sad that she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea’s got children, Theresa hasn’t’ – do you know what I mean? Because I think that would be really horrible.”
One of Ms. Leadsom’s allies, former Secretary of State and ex-leader of the Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith remarked this morning: “There seems to be a ‘black ops’ operation going on here, which needs to stop now. Otherwise bringing the party back together will be very difficult afterwards.
“It has been an absolute campaign to try and vilify Andrea from start to finish.”
Some believe this tactic, pushed hard by the Westminster establishment, is the net result of Ms. May actually having a poor record to run on and therefore instead opting for “Project Smear” against her rival.
Ms. May presided over the largest increase in migration to Britain (up to 330,000 a year) despite campaigning to reduce it to less than 100,000. She has overseen the fact that just three boats now patrol 7,700 miles of British coastline, and she has pushed what is known as the “Snooper’s Charter”, which would see government agencies store all texts, calls, tweets, and more, of all British citizens, in a bid to grow the surveillance state.
Ms. May has banned Islam critics from the UK, while presiding over the Rotherham scandal where 1400 mostly young white girls were groomed and raped by mostly Pakistani, Muslim men. And she has said that Britain “benefits a great deal” from Shariah courts.
But mostly she is known for having called her own political party the “nasty party” before embarking on a “modernisation” agenda. She eschewed her previous positions on gay adoption, and has run away from her record on Section 28 (Local Government Act 1988) which prohibited local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.
Meanwhile, Ms. Leadsom’s critics are taking aim at the fact that she has had scant experience in government, and are picking apart her staunch social conservatism.
The difference for now, is that the May camp appears to have much of the establishment in tow. But given how that worked for them at the referendum, Team Leadsom may be emboldened by such a fact.