UK Politics

General election: How do you campaign with a newborn?

Andrea Jenkyns and Tulip Siddiq with their babies Image copyright Andrea Jenkyns/Tulip Siddiq

She'll be "too busy changing nappies" were the words of one Conservative councillor about a pregnant politician hoping to be elected on 8 June.

In a Facebook post for which he later apologised, Jon Wright claimed that caring for a newborn would prevent one candidate, Labour's Catherine Atkinson from being "a voice for the people".

But in 2015-17, women made up 29% of all MPs, and about 30% of candidates for the coming general election are women - a record high.

Many of these women have or are likely to have young families - so what is it like to run for office with a newborn?

The BBC spoke to two politicians about juggling briefing books and breast pumps.

'He was sick in my hair'

Clifford may well be the youngest baby on the campaign trail.

His mum, Andrea Jenkyns, became the Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood in 2015, famously ousting Ed Balls who was then shadow chancellor.

She gave birth to Clifford, her first son, in March, but what she didn't know was that just three weeks later, a general election would be called.

While people were adjusting to the idea of another election, Andrea was suddenly faced with the task of defending her seat while caring for her baby.

Image copyright Andrea Jenkyns
Image caption Clifford meets Prime Minister Theresa May in Bradford

Life with a newborn is hectic for any parent - new babies can need feeding every two hours, and there's also the sleep deprivation.

Most new mums spend this time on maternity leave, but this is no longer an option for Andrea who needs to campaign if she wants to be re-elected.

Her fiance, Jack Lopresti, is also an MP but they spend long hours apart as he lives 200 miles away in his constituency of Filton and Bradley Stoke.

"The biggest challenge was going into election mode when he was three weeks old, I was recovering from my Caesarean that I had to have due to complications and was still taking morphine for the pain," Andrea told the BBC.

Campaigning in a general election means gruelling and physically demanding days - there are voters to meet, doors to knock on and speeches to give.

You may also like:

Andrea has managed to take baby Clifford to some events, including the Conservative manifesto launch in Bradford where he met Theresa May, and when she is delivering leaflets.

"The funniest moment was when the prime minister was due to visit a business in my constituency, and an hour before, I was winding Clifford and he was sick in my hair!

"People are always keen to meet Clifford and he always gets a warm reaction, people also say hello and one little four-year-old girl asked for a photo with him.

"I've also been canvassing on the doorstep when people have asked how he is doing, which is really lovely," she explained.

"Seeing my little boy's beautiful face and the way it lights up when he smiles has kept me going through the tiredness and sleepless nights.

"Being a mother is an absolute real joy."

You can find a full list of candidates standing in Morley and Outwood here.

'Worried I'll miss out'

Azalea is just a year old but she has already played a star role in two major political campaigns.

"In a politician's life when an election happens everything stops," her mum Tulip Siddiq, the Labour candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, told the BBC.

Azalea was just eight weeks old at the start of the EU referendum campaign in May 2016, and now Tulip is defending her seat in the general election.

Image copyright Tulip Siddiq
Image caption Azalea Percy was born in April 2016 and just a few weeks later, joined her mum on the EU referendum campaign

"You stop cleaning your house. You stop buying food and you start keeping odd hours.

"But when you have a baby, the baby can't skip naps. The baby needs food and milk.

"I have to be super-organised, but Azalea knows that things are different now," says Tulip.

MPs are not legally entitled to maternity leave which puts extra pressure on politicians trying to balance childcare and work.

Tulip returned to work when Azalea was three months old and she found breastfeeding and expressing milk particularly challenging.

Some people thought her daughter's feeding routine prevented her from committing enough time to the EU referendum campaign, but midwives and doctors advised her to breastfeed.

"I am sure there are people around me who thought I was disruptive or not being helpful because I was breastfeeding," she said.

On referendum day, she fed her daughter in a cupboard at a polling station to avoid making others feel uncomfortable.

Image copyright Tulip Siddiq
Image caption Tulip Siddiq celebrates her daughter Azalea's first birthday with her husband Chris Percy

Azalea is now weaned so Tulip has been able to be a bit more flexible with her campaign commitments. But like many working mums, she worries about what she may miss.

"The other day she stood up and wobbled her first steps and I was screaming with happiness because I had had a rough day on the doorstep and it was just brilliant to be there and witness that," she said.

You can see a full list of candidates standing in Hampstead and Kilburn here.

By Georgina Rannard & Hannah Henderson, UGC & Social News team

Related Topics

More on this story