Why straight-talking, anti-woke warrior Kemi Badenoch is Labour’s worst nightmare – and could be our next PM

Why straight-talking, anti-woke warrior Kemi Badenoch is Labour’s worst nightmare – and could be our next PM

KEMI BADENOCH has nothing to hide. No political tricks up her sleeve.

There is no secret pact with Michael Gove to quit the Tory leadership race and throw her weight behind Rishi Sunak.

The straight-talking MP for Saffron Walden, Essex, is in this race to win. Anything less, she says, would betray her growing army of fans
The straight-talking MP for Saffron Walden, Essex, is in this race to win. Anything less, she says, would betray her growing army of fansCredit: Camera Press
The 42-year-old is already planning Day One as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The 42-year-old is already planning Day One as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern IrelandCredit: LNP

David Frost, the former Brexit secretary, can forget about persuading her to cave in and back Liz Truss instead.

The straight-talking MP for Saffron Walden, Essex, is in this race to win. Anything less, she says, would betray her growing army of fans.

“I have no intention of throwing in the towel . . . that would be cheating,” she told me as she prepared for last night’s Channel Four leadership debate. 

Indeed, the 42-year-old is already planning Day One as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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She has her Downing Street team lined up and slots allocated for a new Cabinet.

The next Chancellor’s first task will be an emergency budget to help struggling families through the cost-of-living storm, with cuts to fuel duty.

She has plenty of policies. The best of all is: honesty.

“I entered this leadership contest to tell the British people the truth,” she says.

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“I know some of my constituents are falling below the poverty line,” she said.

But in a swipe at bickering rivals, she adds: “Before we make tax cuts, we need to make sure we have a plan for the priorities of ordinary people, not Twitter.”

Terrifying prospect

Being free to tell the unvarnished truth gives Kemi a unique advantage over the rivals she must beat this weekend.

Unlike Rishi Sunak, she does not risk questions about American Green Cards, a mega-rich family or creating the highest UK tax burden since the 1950s.

There are no embarrassing media clips of her campaigning as a Lib-Dem or crusading against Brexit, like Liz Truss.

The Wimbledon-born mother-of-three has no trouble declaring that a woman cannot have a penis, the hot-potato trans issue that threatens to torpedo Penny Mordaunt.

And as an intelligent young black woman in an elderly white man’s world, she is a terrifying prospect for Labour plodder Keir Starmer. 

The daughter of Nigerian parents has a fascinating backstory.

 She spent her early years living in comparative poverty — no electricity or running water — under Nigerian military dictators, before struggling as a lone 16-year-old in London to pass her A-levels.

Kemi was so impressed with British democracy she decided to apply for citizenship — only to discover she was entitled to it already.

A bright student, she battled a teaching culture of low expectations, graduating as a problem-solving software engineer and then as a lawyer.

There is more to her than a poster girl for the anti-woke. 

Like Tony Blair and David Cameron, she had no Cabinet rank experience before running for PM. Both went on to become election winners. 

“I’m prepared,” she tells me. “I have thought through what I am going to do on day one.

“First of all, there will be an emergency budget.

“In terms of the Downing Street machine, the people are ready to do the job.”

She laughs off rumours ex-boss Gove is grooming her as a “fall-girl” for Rishi.

“Michael did not know I was going to run until after I did so,” she says. In any other politician, that might be labelled a “non-denial denial”.

 In Kemi’s case, we can assume it is true.

It is this clarity, courage of conviction and readiness to speak difficult truths that propelled her into contention for the highest office in the land.

Kemi enjoys being under-estimated, operating just below the radar and then emerging to deliver bombshell attacks on racism or gender politics before quietly getting back to her job.

This low-key technique has served her well in the leadership campaign.

 Virtually unknown outside Westminster until last week, she has soared near the top as a Tory favourite.

The former banker and Treasury minister speaks with the quiet authority of a black woman in the face of militant Left-wing bigotry.

Leading voice

It takes courage to tell screeching black Labour MPs in a bearpit Commons clash: “I strongly believe Britain is the fairest and most open-minded country in the world.”

But it puts Kemi on the front line of the most potent issue in modern British politics — the fight for free speech against the grievance-seeking mob.

She is perhaps the leading voice on the gender and identity issues that now dominate and divide British politics. 

How will the Labour Party, which has never elected a woman leader, cope with a Tory Party led by its third woman PM? How can Keir Starmer, who bends the knee to Black Lives Matter activists, attack a Tory government led by a black woman over slavery or racism?

And how will mealy-mouthed Sir Keir, who cannot bring himself to define a woman, take on a PM who is happy to call herself an “adult female human being”.

Who’s side is Labour on? The overwhelming majority, 94 per cent in the latest poll, who think fully equipped men should be excluded from women-only toilets, changing rooms and dormitories.

Or the tiny majority who are trying to hijack the British language by describing individuals as “them” or “they” instead of “he” and “she”.

Kemi sums up Labour’s dilemma in a few crisp words.

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“Democracy is like sex,” she says with trademark humour. “It is a messy business.

“The results are not always predictable but it is the unexpected that keeps politicians on their toes.”

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Pete Barden

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