Kemi Badenoch hints at Conservative Party leadership bid ahead of General Election

Kemi Badenoch
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Kemi Badenoch has hinted at having Tory leadership ambitions, joining other hopefuls in jostling for position ahead of the General Election, PA reports. The Business Secretary, who is seen as a frontrunner to replace Rishi Sunak should he lead the Conservatives to defeat on July 4, said that “we will talk about leadership things after an election” as she did not rule out a tilt at the top job.

She insisted that “we need to focus on this election” at a business event that many in Westminster will have been watching for signs of her intention to run in a future Tory contest as the party braces for an expected defeat. It came after a trio of possible Tory leadership contenders made interventions over the weekend.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the party was the “natural home for Reform voters”, Home Secretary and fellow Essex candidate James Cleverly left open the door to a bid, and former home secretary Dame Priti Patel, also standing for election in Essex, pressing the case for lower taxes in a rallying cry to voters.

READ MORE: Full list of Essex General Election 2024 candidates hoping to win your vote

ALSO READ: Key Essex pledges in General Election 2024 manifestos - from Stansted Airport to Harlow hospital

Ms Badenoch was asked about her own intentions at a debate hosted by the Institute of Directors and Bloomberg on Monday (June 24). She insisted there was “no better job” than Business and Trade Secretary, which “is a lot easier and a lot less pressured than being prime minister”.

The senior Conservative, who ran for the party leadership in 2022, continued: “The fact of the matter is, I stood and I lost. And what terrifies me now is not not becoming leader, it is seeing Labour come in…

“This is one of the things that I’ve found most difficult doing this job, that people tend not to know what it is, because I’m always asked the leadership question. We’re so interested in the personalities, in the gossip and so on…

“We need to focus on this election. The choice is going to be between us or between them. Be afraid if it is them, is all I would say. And we will talk about leadership things after an election, but not before.”

Labour shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, appearing alongside her at the event, accused the Tories of already being focused on the race for Mr Sunak’s job should it become available. In a discussion about a role for the European Court of Justice in a future deal with the European Union, Ms Badenoch accused Labour of trying to take the country “back into the EU without saying so”.

Mr Reynolds said: “This is a conversation on one side, on the Conservative side, which is all about, to be frank, the next leadership election in the Conservative Party and the red lines within there.”

Labour’s poll lead over the Tories remains around 20 points. Some pollsters have suggested Labour could be on course for a thumping majority that puts at risk Conservative seats previously considered safe.

As well as Ms Badenoch, the candidates for North West Essex are Edward Vernon Gildea, Green Party; Erik Bonino, Independent; Andrew David Green, Independent; Niko Omilana, Independent; Issy Waite, Labour Party; Smita Rajesh, Liberal Democrats; and Grant John Maxwell StClair-Armstrong, Independent. The full list of General Election candidates standing across Essex can be found here.