Kemi Badenoch vows to stop equalities chief being 'hounded from office'

Kemi Badenoch - Shutterstock
Kemi Badenoch - Shutterstock

Kemi Badenoch has vowed to stand up for Britain's equalities chief amid Tory concerns about "political" attempts to oust ministers and their appointees.

A government source said the Business Secretary, who is also the equalities minister, had "huge admiration" for Baroness Falkner and had privately made clear that she would not tolerate her being "hounded from office" for doing her job.

The disclosure comes as another minister told The Telegraph that the Government must "100 per cent support" Lady Falkner and other senior figures under fire from civil servants. On Friday, an investigation into allegations against her was suspended following a backlash by 54 peers and outcry across the political spectrum.

The source suggested that Mrs Badenoch felt she was unable to intervene publicly before an investigation had been formally concluded.

“Kemi has huge admiration for Baroness Falkner who she has found to be a woman of incredible courage and tenacity," the source said. "She will wait on the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission to conclude its investigations, but has made it clear privately that she will not allow people navigating incredibly contentious, complex and indeed novel issues to be hounded from office for doing their job.”

Baroness Falkner - Geoff Pugh
Baroness Falkner - Geoff Pugh

Last week No 10 said the Government had a "constructive relationship" with Lady Falkner.

But senior Tories said that failing to publicly back the former Lib Dem peer, who was appointed to her role as chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission by Liz Truss in 2020, would result in heavyweight reformers refusing to take up posts under the Conservatives.

Since her appointment by Ms Truss, who was Mrs Badenoch's predecessor as equalities minister, Lady Falkner has drawn flak for attempting to rebalance the quango's approach to trans issues, with a greater emphasis on women's rights.

The concerned minister said there were fears that some "activist" officials had identified an opportunity to move against Tory government figures and their appointees while the Government appeared to be politically weak.

Senior Tories have likened the row at the EHRC to allegations faced by Dominic Raab, the former deputy prime minister, before he quit last month.

Richard Sharp, the chairman of the BBC, and Katharine Birbalsingh, who ran the Social Mobility Commission, are among other figures appointed by the Conservatives who have quit their jobs amid separate rows.

'Stick up for those who oppose wokerati'

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, said: "His Majesty's Government needs to stick up for those appointed to public bodies who oppose the wokerati.

"It was wrong not to back Richard Sharpe and now Baroness Falkner deserves more robust backing. Otherwise these jobs will only be taken by conforming metropolitans who reinforce each other’s political correctness."

Last week it emerged that a dossier of allegations of “bullying”, “harassment” and “discrimination” had been drawn up by a handful of EHRC civil servants and subsequently leaked.

Lady Falkner, who works two days per week at the commission, has been spending her own money on lawyers to defend herself.

One senior Whitehall source said: "Kemi should pay her costs. That would make it clear that the Government believes in its public institutions and its public servants and make the point that this has gone on long enough and that public servants won't be hung out to dry."