After a Prime Minister’s Questions session, the Business Secretary’s staffer approached several other ministerial aides, criticised Mr Sunak’s performance and suggested they should ‘do something about it’, a well-placed source told The Mail on Sunday.
This was seen as an ‘open leadership bid’ and flagged to No 10.
The approaches were made on December 6, after a PMQs in which Sir Keir Starmer was seen as having come out on top in the weekly exchange with Mr Sunak.
The source said: ‘Spads [special advisers] were told – let’s have our Ministers meet, we need to work out how to improve this situation.’
A second source familiar with the incident told the MoS: ‘It’s not clear if Kemi was aware of it or if [the aide] was freelancing. I assume she knows it was rumbled.’
Allies of Ms Badenoch have denied the claims.
The news comes as Ms Badenoch has been accused of ‘playing to the Right-wingers’ over Rwanda, after anonymous reports emerged saying she privately urged Mr Sunak to tighten the Bill.
The Times reported that Ms Badenoch wanted the Prime Minister to harden the legislation by preventing migrants from lodging individual appeals against their deportation.
A source told the newspaper: ‘Kemi was aware that the Prime Minister faced a serious rebellion and he had to try to accommodate them, so she went in to see Liam [Booth-Smith, Mr Sunak’s chief of staff]. She was trying to avoid the rebel MPs turning against the Government.’
She voted for the legislation in Wednesday’s third reading of the Bill. A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘She’s certainly playing up to the Right-wingers. But she’s been on a slow burn this year – the Election does focus minds.’
Ms Badenoch last month topped a poll of Tory party members regarding who should become their next leader. She was followed by Penny Mordaunt and Suella Braverman. Several Cabinet members have been quietly drumming up support and sounding out MPs over future leadership challenges.
An ally of Ms Badenoch said last night: ‘Kemi is 100 per cent behind the Prime Minister and anyone saying otherwise is doing it for their own benefit, not the country’s.’