Conservative infighting begins between Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman ahead of leadership contest

The Conservative infighting has already started as Tory big beasts position themselves for a leadership election.

In the first Shadow Cabinet meeting as official opposition, Kemi Badenoch criticised Rishi Sunak for calling a snap election, claiming it might have been “unconstitutional”.

The former Business and Trade Secretary, who is seen as one of the frontrunners to replace Sunak, reportedly called his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early “disastrous” and said colleagues including Penny Mordaunt would have kept their seats if he had stayed longer in France.

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She also hit out at fellow leadership contender Suella Braverman, allegedly saying she appeared to be having a “very public” nervous breakdown.

Kemi Badenoch. Credit: Carl Recine/PA WireKemi Badenoch. Credit: Carl Recine/PA Wire
Kemi Badenoch. Credit: Carl Recine/PA Wire

Ms Badenoch said it was “a shame” her comments in Shadow Cabinet were leaked, and added: “In government, we had too much nodding along in the room and arguments outside it.

"That culture needs to change. We need to be honest with one another in private, and united in the direction we take afterwards.”

Ms Braverman told the Popular Conservatism conference: “We were going to stop the wave of illegal migrants landing on our shores. We were going to cut taxes.

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“We were going to stop the lunatic woke virus working its way through the British state.

“The harsh reality – this is a lesson we all need to learn and face up to – is that we did none of that.”

The former Home Secretary hopes to position herself as the right-wing candidate that will appeal to the party membership.

Her predecessor James Cleverly called for calm, and said his party needed to “get our act together” ahead of the leadership contest.

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He said the Tories need to conduct a “sensible post mortem on what went wrong and finding the right path forwards”.

Mr Cleverly told colleagues: “As we do this we must remember two vital things. Firstly, it cannot descend into bitter infighting and finger pointing. That is exactly how we ended up here.”

A narrower offer will not win back voters that have been lost to the left or right, Mr Cleverly warned.

He said: “We must get our act together. We need to unite in order to deliver.

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“It will take humility and hard work, to recover our reputation for competence and integrity, to rebuild trust in our party, and unite behind a broad platform that will give people a reason to vote Conservative again.”

The rules and timeline of the leadership race will be set out by the backbench 1922 Committee, which has elected Bob Blackman as its new chair.

Dame Priti Patel, who served as Home Secretary between July 2019 and September 2022, Robert Jenrick, who previously served as Immigration Minister and ex-Health Secretary Victoria Atkins are expected to put themselves forward.

Some Tory MPs have called for a “long contest” which could run until Christmas. It is thought Mr Sunak will not want to continue as party leader after the summer, so the Conservatives may have to find a caretaker.

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