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Kemi Badenoch is ‘member of Tory Whatsapp group called Evil Plotters’

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch and housing secretary Michael Gove are both members of a Tory Whatsapp group called Evil Plotters, it has emerged.

Ms Badenoch, who previously stood as Tory leader and is now a favourite for the future leadership of the party, criticised colleagues at the weekend for stirring up leadership conversations.

She dismissed rumours of plans to get rid of Rishi Sunak as “tittle-tattle” and denied any involvement with colleagues who had put her name forward as an alternative.

“Quite frankly, the people who keep putting my name in there are not my friends,” she said. “They don’t care about me. They don’t care about my family or what this would entail. They are just stirring.”

But now it has been revealed that Ms Badenoch is part of a group that is helping to stoke her long-term leadership ambitions - aptly named “Evil Plotters”, according to the Guardian.

Kemi Badenoch is reportedly a member of an ‘Evil Plotters’ WhatsApp group (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Kemi Badenoch is reportedly a member of an ‘Evil Plotters’ WhatsApp group (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

The news follows weeks of difficulty and embarassment for Mr Sunak, after an anonymous group of Tory donors funded a poll suggesting he was leading his party to electoral oblivion at the next election.

Though Ms Badenoch has not been linked the poll, the survey launched suspicions that there were internal manoeuvres within the party to start considering new leadership.

One Tory insider told the Guardian that Ms Badenoch is not directly involved with any plot to get rid of Mr Sunak, but that “she’s got a campaign ready for when the moment does eventually come.”

Mr Gove, who is also a member of the group, has been a long-standing ally of Ms Badenoch and has been accused by former culture secretary Nadine Dorries of trying to install her as leader in her book The Plot.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Ms Dorries said: “The book made a number of predictions — and, one by one, these are coming to pass. Chief among them was the suggestion that after Rishi Sunak had been installed as PM, it would be only a matter of time before ‘the plotters’ — a shadowy cabal within the party — turned against him, as they had turned against every Tory leader for the past two decades.

“Sure enough... [it has been] reported that a group within the Conservative Party are now working to dethrone Rishi and install business secretary Kemi Badenoch as PM.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has been a long-standing ally of Kemi Badenoch and supported her leadership bid back in 2022 (PA Wire)
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has been a long-standing ally of Kemi Badenoch and supported her leadership bid back in 2022 (PA Wire)

However, allies of Ms Badenoch have since suggested that she had not explicitly instructed her allies to plan and prepare for a leadership campaign, but has given them the nod to continue.

It has also been reported that Dougie Smith, a senior Conservative strategist who has worked as an adviser to successive prime ministers, is aiding the group of rebels who are plotting to oust Mr Sunak.

Mr Smith, who has played a key role as a fixer for decades in the Conservative Party, is working with the rebels alongside Will Dry - Mr Sunak’s former special adviser who was revealed last week to have quit in December and started working for the rebels.

The two men are understood to have held broad discussions about the group’s plans, according to The Times, while senior Tories say Mr Smith is acting as an adviser to the group, although another source said he did not have a formal role.

On Sunday, Badenoch did not deny having leadership ambitions, telling the BBC: “If you’d asked me two years ago in January 2022 I would have laughed it off and said it was a completely crazy idea.

Nadine Dorries has suggested that there is a plot within the party to depose Mr Sunak and replace her with Ms Badenoch (PA Media)
Nadine Dorries has suggested that there is a plot within the party to depose Mr Sunak and replace her with Ms Badenoch (PA Media)

“You never really know these things until you’re in the moment. What I would remind people is that after Liz Truss left I stood up and said I’m not running again: Rishi’s the person who should do the job. I did so because I worked with him [at] the Treasury, I knew he had a handle on the economy.”

Ms Badenoch is still reportedly regularly holding lunches with many of her key MP backers including housing minister Lee Rowley and digital minister Julia Lopez.

They were among the MPs who supported her during the Tory leadership contest to take over from Boris Johnson, when she made it to the final four.

Rowley, who was Badenoch’s campaign manager in 2022, is said to have continued unofficially in the role, while one of her special advisers, James Roberts, the former chief of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, is said to be “still working on leadership stuff”.

A spokesperson for Badenoch did not deny the WhatsApp group claim but said: “This is exactly the sort of stirring Kemi was referring to when she told people to stop messing around on Sunday.

“Having lunch, speaking to MPs, and having a parliamentary special adviser is not a plot, it is the day-to-day job of being a secretary of state. This utter nonsense is clearly part of a targeted campaign against Kemi and anyone reading it should treat it as such.”

A spokesman for the Business Secretary did not deny she is in the WhatsApp group and argued it is part of a “targeted campaign” against her.

Today, Mr Rowley denied he is a member of the WhatsApp group, telling Times Radio: “I’m not and it’s all just silly gossip.”

He also told LBC: “Kemi is a very close friend, she’s been a very close friend for many, many years.

“I think in that report you’re referring to I’m being told I’m going to lunch with people – of course I’m going for lunch with people, I meet people very regularly, I work with Kemi very regularly on policy, as I do with every other minister.

“This is all the sort of self-indulgent conspiracy thing that goes on in politics from time to time.”