Andrea Leadsom has suggested journalists should be “patriotic” rather than question Brexit negotiations, in an extraordinary BBC Newsnight exchange that left the interviewer fuming.
The leading Brexiter and former candidate for prime minister, whom Theresa May promoted to lead the House of Commons after she was severely weakened by the snap election, bristled under questioning about the Tories’ weaker position after the election.
Host Emily Maitlis outlined the problems the Government is facing as Brexit negotiations began this week: May lost her majority, the DUP has still not agreed to any deal to prop up the Tories in the new parliament and EU leaders are “laughing at us”.
Leadsom disputed this and then said: “Of course it’s early days. It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic.
“The country took a decision. This Government is determined to deliver on that decision.”
Dumbfounded, Maitlis interrupted: “Sorry, it’s unpatriotic? Are you accusing me of being unpatriotic for questioning whether you have the position of strength that she said she wanted?”
Leadsom said: “I’m not accusing you of anything Emily. I am simply saying we need to pull together as a country.”
The denial did little to improve reaction on Twitter, where she was dubbed “Britain’s stupidest politician”.
This isn’t the first time Leadsom has fallen foul of journalists.
Her bit to lead the Tories after the EU referendum result famously imploded when she suggested to The Times that being a mother could make her a better prime minister than May.
Her withdrawal from the race gifted May the premiership without having to face election by Tory party members.
The Newsnight interview left some pondering what might have been.