Kemi badenoch

We need more Kemi Badenochs

On Tuesday, parliament voted for the first time on legislation to begin the phasing out of smoking (not just cigarettes, but cigars, shisha, you name it), and to create a two-tier legal system where some adults will be able to buy these products, and some won’t. Although the ban seems popular with the public, it has become a lightning rod for Tory MPs, who see it as a shibboleth for how conservative they and their colleagues are. Westminster-watchers are, inevitably, seeing it through the lens of a future leadership contest. The vote was free – that is, not one where members of Parliament were whipped to vote with the government.

Could Cameron take over the Tories?

My weekly appearance on the podcast How to Win an Election, which I do with Danny Finkelstein, Polly Mackenzie and Matt Chorley, had succeeded in avoiding embarrassment until last week when, in response to a listener’s question about politicians’ appearance, I was momentarily stuck for something to say about Keir Starmer. I should have remained stuck. Instead, what came out of my mouth, after laying into Rishi Sunak’s skinny suits and narrow ties, was the suggestion that Keir could do with losing a few pounds. Heaven knows why it attracted such attention. Labour’s Wes Streeting was quick off the mark (he is so effective) with his condemnation of my ‘fat-shaming’

How has the Conservative party’s ‘Dr No’ escaped everyone’s notice for so long?

The reason conspiracy theories are so resilient, reproducing themselves from one generation to another, is that they are unfalsifiable. Evidence against them, however solid, has obviously been faked. Anyone who tries to demonstrate that Americans did land on the moon or that J.F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald is obviously in the pay of people who stand to benefit. If you ask who those people are, since there seems to be no evidence of their existence, the answer is always the same: they are very good at concealing themselves. And so the theory finds credulous punters. To save time, I should probably point out that The Spectator, which

After Sunak, who?

Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens, the author Fay Weldon once declared.  This observation about life’s tendency to deliver sudden squalls between periods of apparent calm could certainly be applied to the leadership of the Conservative party.  It is only a year ago that Kemi Badenoch rather brilliantly used the leadership contest that followed the downfall of Boris Johnson to force her way into the top rank of Conservative politicians after having been overlooked during various Johnsonite Cabinet reshuffles. Now her merits are widely acknowledged and she is firm favourite at the bookies to become the next leader of the party. Of course, nothing is happening on

Why won’t the Conservatives stand up for conservatism any more?

Is it supposed to be enough for those of us of a culturally and socially conservative persuasion to know that some Tory MPs share our outlook? Are we meant to look back over the radical left’s march through the public realm during these past 12 years of Tory-led governments and think: ‘Well, at least some Conservative MPs tried to make a bit of a fuss about it, so we’d better vote Tory again?’ It should not take a genius in Conservative Campaign HQ to realise that no, it isn’t enough. Not when one of the Tory prime ministers from this long phase of nominally conservative government has just come out to say

My life as a political spouse

When I was a teenage Tory activist in the mid-1990s, I hoped one day I’d be part of a leadership election campaign team. The energy and the intrigue looked so exciting. Eventually, I did end up right in the thick of it – but as a political spouse. These races have changed a lot since then. Michael Portillo’s plan to run against John Major was rumbled when his allies were found to have installed dozens of phone lines in a campaign headquarters: that was how you did it back in the 1990s. Now, it’s all done in WhatsApp groups. Kemi and I joke about what we would have made of

Is Kemi flip-flopping on net zero?

Ah Kemi Badenoch: the Saffron Walden slayer of shibboleths who has electrified the Tory leadership race. The former equalities minister has gone from near-unknown to standard-bearer of the right during the past fortnight. She is now seeking to pull off a shock upset and overhaul Liz Truss in the MPs’ ballot today. Much of Badenoch’s appeal comes from her perceived ability to say home truths and communicate her views clearly and coherently. So it’s all the more of a shame then that Badenoch appears to lack such candour when it comes to the thorny issue of the current government target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. When she launched

The latest Tory leadership debate was a grim spectacle

The eyes had it, in last night’s leadership debate. Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak took turns directing to the camera a puppy-eyed gaze. Tom Tugendhat blinked manfully, as if overcome from time to time with a sense of his humble desire to serve. Kemi Badenoch blinked, too – but more in the way of someone regretting the decision to switch her specs out for contact lenses. And if Liz Truss – an apprentice of Mrs Thatcher’s gimlet-eyed stare – blinked at all, I confess I didn’t notice it. I was distracted by the fact that she seemed to have four eyebrows rather than the usual human ration of two. I

The verdict: the second Tory leadership debate

‘If you’re still watching this debate, well done,’ said Mordaunt, bizarrely, in her closing statement. ‘I wish tonight had been less about us and more about you.’ She obviously scripted that comment before she had any idea how the evening was going to pan out and her own contributions were certainly forgettable. But the others made for an interesting night. Tom Tugendhat quite rightly said the whole evening’s discussion – tax, defence etc. – was about the country. ‘We need to restore confidence in our government and in ourselves,’ he said. I’m not sure Britain needs its self-confidence restored: it’s the Tories who are having a collective breakdown. Rishi Sunak


Truss struggles with surging Kemi

It’s been a mixed performance thus far for the ‘Liz for leader’ brigade. A flawless campaign launch, strong cabinet support and enthusiastic media backing have all been positives but the failure to lock up the votes of the Tory right have left the Foreign Secretary in a less confident situation than she might otherwise have liked. Truss’s efforts have not been helped in this respected by Kemi Badenoch, the surprise package of the leadership campaign. On the second round of voting, Truss came third with 64 MPs, ahead of Badenoch on 49. While the latter is still regarded as a long-shot candidate, there are whispers about whether the junior minister

Penny drops, Kemi soars in Tory activist poll

While Tom Tugendhat won the public opinion poll after last night’s debate, this is a race that will be decided by Tory members – and they seem to have a new winner (for now at least). A new ConservativeHome poll has seen Penny Mordaunt knocked off the top spot by Kemi Badenoch – who now has a double-digit lead. In a rapidly-moving contest, it’s quite significant. ‘Mordaunt’s ship is becalmed,’ says Paul Goodman in the ConHome analysis. She led Badenoch by 46 per cent to 40 per cent in an either/or poll last Tuesday. But in this different poll (with all five candidates) she’s on just 18 per cent, with Liz

Where do the Tories go from here?

The hardest thing for any political party to achieve is renewal in government. The Tories have managed it twice since they came to power in 2010. In 2016 and 2019 they changed leader – and tack – to adjust to new political realities. Their effort in 2019 was more successful, winning them their biggest majority since 1987. At both points, it was obvious that a shift on Brexit was what was required. What about this time? The answer isn’t so clear. In some ways this leadership race is the first discussion the Conservatives have had about their ideological direction since the 2005 leadership contest between David Cameron and David Davis

The big question over Kemi Badenoch’s bid

Kemi Badenoch has just completed her leadership launch. Although she is an outside bet, her campaign has been building momentum after Michael Gove endorsed her and she came a narrow second in a ConHome poll on who should be the next Tory leader. The launch saw her try to put the flesh on the bones of her pitch to MPs – which so far has been dominated by identity politics. In a flick to her position on culture wars, the toilets at the venue had paper signs put on them so they weren’t gender neutral. In her speech, Badenoch was all too happy to put clear blue water between herself

Why I should become prime minister

This is an edited transcript of Kemi Badenoch’s speech announcing her candidacy for the Conservative party leadership. It’s time to tell the truth. For too long, politicians have been telling us that we can have it all: have your cake and eat it. And I’m here to tell you that is not true. It never has been. There are always tough choices in life and in politics. No free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on government spending, and a stronger defence without a slimmer state. Governing involves trade-offs, and we need to start being honest about that.  Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver

Gove backs Kemi Badenoch for prime minister

Michael Gove has endorsed Kemi Badenoch for Tory leader. Badenoch, who was one of his junior ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, is described by Gove as ‘Keir Starmer’s worst nightmare’ and she has a ‘focus intellect and no-bulls**t drive’. Gove’s support is a coup for Badenoch. It is not every day that someone throws their weight behind someone who was their junior minister until a few days ago. Gove makes a typically eloquent case. But the jump for Badenoch from being a minister of state to being prime minister would be immense. The challenge for her is persuading 120 MPs – the final-two threshold – that she can make that

Kemi Badenoch: the curriculum does not need ‘decolonising’

When the government published a report last year by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) into racism in the UK, it was the subject of controversy. The report concluded the UK does not have a systemic problem with racism (while accepting there are issues), and a number of charities dubbed it ‘deeply troubling’. A year later and the government finally set out its response to the report and how it intends to deal with the inequalities highlighted in it.  Taking its founding principles from the original report, it essentially accepts the chair Tony Sewell’s logic that the different outcomes for different minority groups means that it is the wrong approach to attribute every problem to racism.

The tactics of victimhood

Late last week the Labour deputy leader was the subject of a glowing profile in the Times. The piece described Angela Rayner’s alleged physical similarity to Nicole Kidman, spoke indulgently of her ‘outspokenness’ and otherwise confirmed my suspicion that most of the people who go into politics should never be allowed near the stuff. Rayner described herself as having ‘thrived’ off the ‘chaos’ of recent years. Apparently ‘the trauma, the screaming, the unpredictability — this is my bread and butter’. She continued: ‘In fact, I think it’s strange when people are nice. I find taking compliments more difficult than taking abuse, to be honest. I’ve never had that love and

Kemi Badenoch is right about colonialism

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister (and, now, for Levelling Up) has come under attack for an off-hand remark she made on colonialism some years ago. In a leaked WhatsApp exchange, according to VICE World News, Badenoch wrote, ‘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.’ What did she mean? The reporter from VICE offers an interpretation:, ‘The British Empire and its European counterparts believed in the superiority of white people, and indigenous groups experienced extreme exclusion, displacement and violence in order for the British to take control.’ And the source of the leak, Funmi Adebayo,

Is Kemi Badenoch’s leaked audio a set-up?

The headline reads, ‘UK Equalities Minister Goes on Anti-LGBTQ Rant in Leaked Audio’. Oh dear, I thought. As a lesbian and a harsh critic of the Tory government, I wondered what had been said. I scoured the piece in Vice, expecting something along the lines of ‘pervert’ and ‘unnatural’ and something about how we will be marrying our vacuum cleaners next. But it was all rather tame and boring. Badenoch said: It’s now, you know like, it’s not even about sexuality now, it’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for? … So now it’s not just

Kemi Badenoch: The problem with critical race theory

Even now, months after the event, Labour MPs have not forgiven Kemi Badenoch for saying that Britain is one of the best countries in the world in which to be black. It was during the Black Lives Matter protests and many politicians — including Sir Keir Starmer — were ‘taking the knee’ to show fealty to its cause. Badenoch took a different view, seeing within all this a pernicious ideology that portrays blackness as victimhood and whiteness as oppression. In parliament this week, she went further: this, she said, is ‘critical race theory’ — a new enemy for the Tory party and, as equalities minister, one for her to fight.