Conservative leadership profile: Kemi Badenoch


One of the lesser known candidates in the leadership race is former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch who, following a recent poll of 800 party members and having acquired 40 first round votes, is now tipped as a strong favourite for the position.

In an exclusive interview for The Times, Badenoch set out her agenda for a, ‘strong but limited government’. She appears less entangled in the highly discussed subject of tax cuts than her fellow contenders. Badenoch is pushing for a “smart and nimble centre-right vision”, and is turning to an analysis of the problems on the global political stage as a ploy for power, noting that, “our problem is not unique. Politics is in crisis around the world”. In the exclusive interview, Badenoch also stresses that, “the mainstream right has too often become detached from its voter base, and rather than seeking to understand the new challenges voters faced, ignored them… By promising too much and trying to solve every problem, politicians don’t reassure and inspire, they disappoint and drive disillusion”. This is a clever but rather obvious attempt from Badenoch to avoid publicly criticising the recent failures of her party and the man who has systematically diminished its reputation and integrity.

For Badenoch, Johnson is “a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them”. She fails, however, to admit that the former Bullingdon boy has single handedly contributed to and emphasised the detachment, dissolution and disparity felt towards the political establishment which she sees as being so problematic. Political governing is ultimately done by individuals and Badenoch’s attempt to divert from this truth is a cunning and yet rather transparent attempt to distance herself from the recent mistakes made by her party and its leader.

Badenoch is pushing for a “smart and nimble centre-right vision”

Badenoch is subtly tapping into a traditional Conservative mindset, criticising those who ‘legislate for hurt feelings’ and pledging to ‘reinvigorate the case for free speech’. This rhetoric has been at the heart of her political agenda since her maiden speech in the House of Commons in July 2017.  She stated that “[we are] in an era when emotions and feeling are prized above reason and logic. It is those freedoms that I will seek to defend during my time in this House”. In the speech, Badenoch emphatically backed the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, stating that, “the vote for Brexit was the greatest ever vote of confidence in the project of the United Kingdom”. The MP for Saffron Walden relayed how during her upbringing in Nigeria she, “was unlucky enough to live under socialist policies. It is not something I would wish on anyone, and it is just one of the reasons why I am a Conservative”. In her debut oration in the Chamber five years ago, Badenoch was keen to emphasise her African heritage, “As a woman of African origin, I also believe that there is a lot that Africa can teach us”, however her interpretation of colonialism and the lessons to be learned from the history of the continent, is controversial.

Last year, VICE World News published a string of scathing screenshots attributed to Badenoch. In the leaked exchanges made made public by Funmi Adebayo, Badenoch emphatically declares, “I don’t care about colonialism because [I] know what we were doing before colonialism got there. They came in and just made a different bunch of winners and losers”. She continues, “There was never any concept of ‘rights’, so [the] people who lost out were old elites not every day people”. In the same chat, Badenoch boasts about almost reducing prominent civil rights advocate Kimberle Crenshaw to tears on a panel at an Institute of Arts and Ideas debate in June 2018.

Her divisive stint as Equalities Officer begs the question as to whether she holds the unifying qualities needed

This is far from Badenoch’s first clash with public opinion. In October 2020 she claimed that certain authors of bestselling anti-racism books, “actually want a segregated society”, prompting contempt from over 100 leading black writers, such as Benjamin Zephaniah and Malorie Blackman. In September 2021 Stonewall UK tweeted their discontent with the Minister after the surfacing of an audio recording where Badenoch went off on an anti LGBTQ+ rant, questioning same sex marriage and mocking the trans community. Her divisive stint as Equalities Officer begs the question as to whether she holds the unifying qualities needed by the Tories after Johnson’s polarising premiership.

Badenoch has certainly become a more threatening force to the other contenders with Michael Gove publicly praising her, “no bullshit”, approach to politics. Writing in an opinion column for The Sun on the 10th July, he stated that “Kemi Badenoch should be our next prime minister – she’s brave, principled and brilliant”. We will shortly find out if his fellow party members agree.


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