Andrea Leadsom in row over 'overrun with foreigners' tweet

Andrea Leadsom London Metal Exchange

Andrea Leadsom’s campaign team has denied she intentionally retweeted somebody saying the UK was “overrun with foreigners”, though websites that track posts deleted by MPs show that the retweet did appear on her account a fortnight ago.

Leadsom, a leading leave campaigner whose support is growing among Brexit-backing Tory MPs, apparently retweeted the comment made by the now-deleted user @QueenBriton.

The retweet occurred on 20 June, before the EU referendum and before the energy minister announced she was running for the Conservative leadership.

That tweet, which read, “I really doubt they fought to have their country overrun by foreigners,” was screen-grabbed by several followers, and several websites that monitor tweets deleted by MPs’ official accounts show it existed and was subsequently removed.

A spokesman for Leadsom said they believed the tweet had been fabricated but later denied they had intended to imply a screengrab had been doctored.

“We have conducted a detailed investigation into the circumstances of this tweet. Andrea Leadsom did not retweet the message from @QueenBritain [sic].

“It appears that the message in question never existed, but was fabricated in some way. We are continuing to investigate how the impression was created that Andrea retweeted this message. We will not speculate about those circumstances.”

The account in question, @QueenBriton, has been deactivated so the original tweet is no longer searchable on Twitter, although it is visible via Google caching.

Politwhoops, a website that tracks tweets deleted by MPs, said the retweet had been deleted five days ago. Another such website, PostGhost, also showed the retweet had been deleted 10 days after it was first retweeted. It is unclear whether it is Leadsom’s account that undid the retweet, or if the tweet simply disappeared when the @QueenBriton account was deactivated.

Leadsom received a boost in support for her No 10 bid after an endorsement from Boris Johnson, but critics from her own party, including an unofficial account endorsing rival Stephen Crabb, drew attention to the alleged retweet as Tory MPs began their votes in a secret ballot on Tuesday.

The next Tory leader will be decided through rounds of ballots every Tuesday and Thursday by MPs until only two candidates remain. The final two go to a ballot of members, to be decided by 9 September.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 5th July 2016 16.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010