Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom under pressure over Ukip links and tax return
Conservative leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom has come under pressure on the day of her official campaign launch over support from Ukip figures and her cold feet in publishing her tax return.
The Energy Minister, who has emerged as one of the top three contenders to reach No 10 in the wake of David Cameron's post-Brexit resignation, will lay out her stall for the job in a speech later today.
The ex-City banker and Leave campaigner was also attacked by Treasury officials, who called her the "worst minister" they had dealt with and "monomaniacal" about the EU.
Yesterday Ms Leadsom refused to rule out allowing Ukip leader Nigel Farage a place on Britain's negotiating team to hammer out the UK's exit from the EU if she became Prime Minister.
She has said the Article 50 process of exit should be triggered as soon as possible – a move welcomed by Ukip and Leave.EU donor Arron Banks, who backed Ms Leadsom.
But David Jones, a former Cabinet minister and Vote Leave campaigner who is backing Home Secretary Theresa May for the top job, accused the parties of foul play.
“There is no doubt that elements of Ukip are intending to try to steal a Conservative leadership election,” he told The Times.
Meanwhile Ms Leadsom has rowed back on a pledge to publish her tax return after rival candidate Michael Gove released details of his.
The Energy Minister said she would reveal the details if she became one of the final two candidates in the race, after yesterday agreeing to produce the document regardless.
Mr Gove took home £117,786 in 2013/14 when he was education secretary, according to documents he released last night.
He was demoted to chief whip the following year, which saw his income fall to £96,071.
The details released by the now-Justice Secretary show he had no income from trusts, property or capital gains.
But the publishing of his documents piles pressure on his fellow leadership candidates, all of whom have pledged to publish their returns imminently, except Liam Fox who has said he would if he reaches the final two.
In 2014 it emerged that Ms Leadsom set up a trust to hold shares in her buy-to-let holiday firm. The move could help reduce inheritance tax – although there is no suggestion she acted unlawfully.
A source close to Ms Leadsom told the Guardian: “It is only once you get to the last two that it is appropriate to subject candidates standing to be the next Prime Minister to that level of scrutiny.”
'WORST MINISTER', 'MONOMANIACAL'
Elsewhere, former Treasury colleagues have hit out at Ms Leadsom's work in the department where she served as a minister between April 2014 and May 2015.
“She was the worst minister we’ve ever had," one official told the Financial Times.
Another said: “She found it difficult to understand issues or take decisions... She was monomaniacal, seeing the EU as the source of every problem.
“She alienated officials by continually complaining about poor drafting.”