Kemi Badenoch lays into Rishi Sunak for election disaster

Kemi Badenoch is the bookies's favourite to be next Tory leader
Kemi Badenoch is the bookies's favourite to be next Tory leader - JASON AIDEN/BLOOMBERG

Kemi Badenoch has laid into Rishi Sunak over the Tories’ election disaster.

The shadow housing secretary, who is expected to run in the Tory leadership contest, used the first shadow cabinet meeting to say Mr Sunak’s decision to call an early election without first informing the Cabinet was a mistake.

She said it bordered on being unconstitutional.

Ms Badenoch also branded the Tory leader’s decision to return early from D-Day commemorations “disastrous” and was said to be concerned that colleagues were failing to grasp the enormity of the party’s defeat in a 172-seat majority Labour landslide.

The former trade secretary even took aim at one of her potential leadership rivals as she suggested many colleagues were still traumatised by the size of the defeat.

Rishi Sunak getting soaked as he announces the election date
Rishi Sunak getting soaked as he announces the election date - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP

She said Suella Braverman, who criticised Mr Sunak before the polls closed, appeared to be having a “very public” nervous breakdown.

Ms Badenoch’s intervention came as Conservative MPs were left furious on Tuesday night as the election of the new chairman of the 1922 Committee descended into chaos.

Senior Tories including Jeremy Hunt, the shadow chancellor, and Mark Francois, a former Armed Forces minister, missed the vote after being wrongly told voting closed at 6pm.

Rishi Sunak arrives in Normandy for the D-Day commemoration
Rishi Sunak arrives in Normandy for the D-Day commemoration. He chose to leave the events early - GARETH FULLER/PA

Ms Badenoch, who is the bookies’ favourite to succeed Mr Sunak, said it had been wrong of the former prime minister to have opted to tell only an inner circle of colleagues of his plans for a snap summer election.

They included his parliamentary private secretary Craig Williams, whom she described as a “buffoon” after he subsequently placed a bet on the election date.

She said ministerial colleagues such as Penny Mordaunt would still be MPs today if Mr Sunak had stayed in France for the D-Day commemorations rather than departing early for an interview with ITV.

Her attack came after Mr Sunak opened the shadow cabinet with an apology and repeated his previous acknowledgement that the responsibility for the election defeat was his alone.

Shadow ministers paid tribute to Mr Sunak for his work ethic and commitment to public service, saying his efforts had meant the defeat was not as bad as it could have been.

Senior MPs are urging Mr Sunak to stay on as leader until the contest for a successor is completed despite speculation that he might seek to step down at the end of July, when Parliament is expected to go into recess.

Many MPs including Bob Blackman, the new chairman of the 1922 Committee, are opposed to rushing into a quick contest with the expectation that it is unlikely to be concluded before November in an attempt to give time for a proper post-mortem and thorough examination of candidates.

Sir David Davis, the former Cabinet minister, warned the party was on a knife edge. He said: “Make the wrong call and we will be obliterated by Reform. On the other side of the knife edge, we could be back in power because the Labour majority is very fragile. We have everything to play for and everything to lose.”