Who is Kemi Badenoch? From 'flipping burgers' to being in with a chance to be the next prime minister

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Until a few weeks ago, few people outside government circles will have heard of Kemi Badenoch.

The so-called "anti-woke" campaigner has been making waves in the Tory leadership race, successfully wooing Brexiteer MPs from the right of the party to make it into the final four.

As things stand she has the fewest parliamentary backers compared to rivals Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak - meaning she is vulnerable to elimination when MPs vote for the fourth time today.

Tory leadership contest to be whittled down again - live updates

But the former equalities minister insists there's still "all to play for", pointing out she's now "the only change candidate left" after Tom Tugendhat was knocked out of the running last night.

Ms Badenoch certainly has reasons to be optimistic, having cut the gap between herself and those ahead of her in the latest round of voting - to the likely dismay of foreign secretary Liz Truss who is also vying for votes from the right of the party.

And if she does indeed fall at the next hurdle, all eyes will be on who she and her prominent backers like Michael Gove will endorse.

Whatever the outcome, her meteoric rise is a remarkable feat for someone who has only been an MP for five years and has never held a cabinet position.

From "flipping burgers" to chance of becoming youngest PM

Ms Badenoch was born in London to parents of Nigerian descent and spent her childhood in Lagos and the US before moving back to the UK age 16.

She worked at McDonald's to support herself while she studied, eventually going on to get a degree in engineering from the University of Sussex.

She has spoke about her background in her leadership bid, saying she chose to move to the UK because she "loves this country" and that she is running to be prime minister because she wants it to be "better for those working hard to make ends meet like I did on minimum wage, flipping burgers at McDonald's all those years ago".

Growing up in Nigeria, she told her campaign launch audience she has "seen what happens when politicians are in it for themselves... using public money as their private piggy banks".

'Keir Starmer's worst nightmare'

Ms Badenoch has won favour for her straight talking, no-nonsense approach.

She has said that as an engineer she would "fix the way the government works", by "stripping things down".

She has promised to cut the size of the state and lead a "limited government focused on essentials" - a pitch that has won favour from former housing minister Michael Gove.

Revealing why he was endorsing her, he wrote in The Sun: "Kemi doesn't just win the argument, she delivers - on getting the Whitehall machine to embark on new policies and on levelling up Britain."

He added: "As a Tory leader, she would be Sir Keir Starmer's worst nightmare."

MP for North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowley, is also backing Ms Badenoch, saying: "Kemi's clarity of analysis about the problems our country faces and her willingness to take tough decisions are exactly why colleagues should back her."

"Fresh face" candidate

Ms Badenoch supported Brexit and was elected as a Member of Parliament for the safe conservative seat Saffron Walden in 2017.

At the age of 42, she, like Mr Sunak, would be the youngest prime minister to enter Downing Street in more than 200 years if she wins the race to succeed Boris Johnson

Ms Badenoch has faced questions over her perceived lack of experience.

She has held several junior ministerial positions but she is the only contender who has not served in cabinet.

However, she insists this is a good thing as she is a "fresh face" for a party that has been mired in sleaze and scandal.

Ms Badenoch quit as equalities minister two weeks ago in protest over Mr Johnson's government - though she had faced calls to resign long before that due to her controversial views on transgender rights.

She has been frank in saying people shouldn't receive any more cost of living payments, pitting herself as a candidate for change who will "tell the truth" to voters.

What are her policies?

Her monetary policy will focus on tackling inflation, she said, but she wants "system change" and will not commit to "micro policies" of giving people "£50 in cash here and there".

She said she supports lower taxes "to boost growth and productivity", but "will not enter a tax bidding war of my tax cuts are bigger than yours".

However, in an article for the Daily Mail, she has said she will call an emergency Budget if she becomes prime minister because people are "suffering".

She says she will bring forward a universal credit and pension credit uplift and raise the income tax threshold, as well as cutting fuel duty and corporation tax.

Read More:
Who is Rishi Sunak? The frontrunner who stabbed Boris Johnson 'in the front'
Who is 'dark horse' Penny Mordaunt?

'Culture warrior'

Ms Badenoch has been outspoken on issues such as gender neutral toilets, which she opposes. She is also opposed to self-ID.

In her leadership pitch she positioned herself as the "anti-woke" candidate, saying identity politics "is not about tolerance or individual rights but the very opposite of our crucial and enduring British values".

At her campaign launch she talked about "discarding the priorities of Twitter to focus on the people's priorities" and "tickbox exercises of diversity and sustainability".

She has also spoken out against the Online Safety Bill, saying it is "in no fit state to become law" and we should not "legislate hurt feelings".

Net Zero controversy

Ms Badenoch has also been one of the most outspoken critics on the government's target of reaching net zero by 2050, describing it as "unilateral economic disarmament".

She has been accused of a "double U-turn" after telling a hustings event that she did support the 2019 manifesto pledge, before appearing to row back on the comments later.

In an interview with Talk TV last night, she said there are circumstances in which she would delay it - possibly to 2060 or 2070.

She said: "I believe there is climate change and that's something we do need to tackle, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't bankrupt our economy."

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