UK Politics

Head-to-head: How Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom compare

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Media captionJohn Pienaar reports on the background and aspirations of the two contenders

Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May are vying to be the next Conservative leader - and the second female prime minister in British history. How do the two contenders measure up?

Theresa May - the basics

Age: 59

Position: Home Secretary, MP for Maidenhead since 1997

Education: Grammar school, degree in Geography from Oxford University

Job before politics: Financial consultant at Bank of England

Family: Only child of a Church of England vicar. Grew up in Oxfordshire. Married for 36 years, no children.

Off-duty: Guards her personal life - and has spoken of her regret at not being able to have children. Enjoys spending time in the kitchen and claims to own 100 cookbooks, but none by Delia Smith (she is not a fan). She is a fan of cricket, however.

Full Theresa May profile

Andrea Leadsom - the basics

Age: 53

Position: Energy and climate change minister, MP for South Northamptonshire since 2010

Education: Grammar School, degree in Political Science from Warwick University

Job before politics: Banking

Family: Daughter of a builder's merchant, her mother divorced when she was four. Grew up in Kent. Married for 23 years, two sons and one daughter.

Off-duty: Charity work with organisation that helps parents bond with their babies. Committed Christian who takes part in Bible studies groups with other MPs. Watches her favourite film Four Weddings and a Funeral at least once a year. Rugby fan who supports Northampton Saints.

Full Andrea Leadsom profile

Pitch for the top job

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Theresa May: "We have immediate work to do to restore political stability and economic certainty, to bring together the Party and the country, and to negotiate a sensible and orderly departure from the European Union. But more than that, we have a mission to make Britain a country that works not for the privileged and not for the few but for every one of our citizens."

Andrea Leadsom: "I want to spread prosperity to every corner of our country. I want to help create more jobs, because we need to hear and heed those millions of our fellow citizens who feel and fear that their country's leaders are not worrying about them enough."

Where they stand on Brexit

Theresa May: Officially a Remainer, but she kept a low profile during the campaign and has now accepted the verdict of the people, saying "Brexit is Brexit".

Andrea Leadsom: A star performer for the Leave campaign during the referendum, although she appears, from comments made in 2013, to have been a recent convert to the cause.


Theresa May: Experience. One of Britain's longest-serving home secretaries with a reputation for toughness. Proudly claims not be a member of any Westminster cliques or the privileged party elite. Not afraid to take on vested interests, such as the Police Federation.

Andrea Leadsom: Backed Brexit, like many grassroots Conservative members who will choose the next PM. Relatively humble background may work in her favour among Tory members seeking a break from Etonians. A fresh face carrying little baggage from the Conservatives' six years in government.


Theresa May: On the losing side in the EU referendum, making some question whether she is the right person to negotiate Britain's exit. Her failure to curb immigration will also be used against her.

Andrea Leadsom: Lack of experience in government - she has never been a cabinet minister - although supporters say she has real world experience. She has also faced questions over whether her banking career was as stellar as initially claimed. Her business and tax affairs have also faced press scrutiny.

What kind of prime minister would they be?

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Theresa May: May was one of the modernising forces during the Conservatives' wilderness years, famously telling Tory activists they were seen as the "nasty" party over their perceived intolerance of minorities. Backed same sex marriage. After six years as Home Secretary the view is that she would be a serious, sober presence in Number 10, not springing too many surprises and adopting a strong - critics might say authoritarian - line on law and order.

Andrea Leadsom: We still have more to learn about her style of leadership, but she is known to be more socially conservative than May - has said she supports gay marriage but "does not like" gay marriage laws - but is equally determined to reach out to neglected voters in unfashionable parts of Britain. Is passionate about her belief in the power of early years intervention to cure society's ills. There might be a hint of Thatcher in her approach - she has been hailed as a "Thatcherite figure" by Tory grandee Lord Tebbit.

The Thatcher factor

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Every Tory leader since Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister for 11 years, has been measured against the Iron Lady by Tory activists and often found wanting. The comparison is even harder to avoid with two women vying to follow in her footsteps.

Theresa May: Has spoken of her admiration for Margaret Thatcher but claims not to have a role model in politics, preferring to forge her own path. Was described by former cabinet colleague Ken Clarke, in candid remarks recorded without his knowledge, as a "bloody difficult woman," although nothing compared to his former boss Thatcher. Mrs May appears to have taken it as a compliment, saying she would be "bloody difficult" with EU bosses in the Brexit negotiations.

Andrea Leadsom: Has said she aspires to emulate her political heroine Margaret Thatcher by combining toughness with "personal warmth". "As a person, she was always kind and courteous and as a leader she was steely and determined," she told The Daily Telegraph. The same age as Thatcher when she became prime minister.

Their other halves

Theresa May: Philip May, a pension fund manager she met at university, where, according to The Guardian, they were introduced to each other by Benazir Bhutto, who would later become the prime minister of Pakistan, at a Conservative Association dance.

Andrea Leadsom: Ben Leadsom, an investment banker and former director of a company that designed software algorithms for hedge funds, who reportedly donated £10,000 to his wife's election campaign.

What others say

"I know that Theresa has the qualities and the character to take our country forward and, with her quietly determined, down-to-earth style, to re-unite us after the referendum, behind a plan to address the deep divisions in our society that it has exposed," Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

"Andrea Leadsom has that rare combination of deep compassion for those less fortunate than herself coupled with real world experience which has given her enormous ability to make clear and informed decisions when needed," former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

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