Conservative MP Tom Hunt says Labour would struggle to deal with Kemi Badenoch as leader.
The Saffron Walden MP is being tipped by many to go far in the leadership race.
And Mr Hunt, the MP for Ipswich, told GB News he thinks Keir Starmer would struggle to deal with her at the despatch box.
He said: “I find it fascinating to see how Keir Starmer would handle Kemi Badenoch over the despatch box. Many of us have seen Kemi Badenoch with the despatch box, we’ve seen her absolutely taking apart figures of the left and I think there’s an argument to be made that Kemi Badenoch might be Labour’s worst nightmare.”
The former equalities minister announced her bid to become the next Prime Minister after resigning from her post on Wednesday, the day before Boris Johnson confirmed he would quit.
Confirming her decision to contest the party leadership in The Times, she claimed she would lower taxes alongside “tight spending” and that she wanted to run a “limited Government focused on the essentials.” The 42-year-old also condemned what she termed “platitudes and empty rhetoric,” and emphasised her commitment to Brexit.
Elected to the Essex seat of Saffron Walden in 2017, it only took Badenoch two years to join the front benches. In 2021, it was briefly thought she was tipped to succeed Gavin Williamson as education secretary, although in the end she was reshuffled to another second-tier role.
Mr Hunt’s comments come after his Tory colleague Steve Baker revealed why he is backing Suella Braverman to be the next PM.
He said: “I was pleased and proud to back Boris Johnson, he saved us from a major constitutional crisis. He defeated Jeremy Corbyn, which should have been easy but we nearly failed to do it in 2017. If we lost that election to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell we would have seen this country wrecked for generations, it would’ve been a disaster. So, on all these fronts, taking us out of the EU, saving us from a constitutional crisis, and defeating the hard-left Boris should be remembered as a hero.
“But what happened that week where I changed my view is that I really wanted to forgive him because it’s cake and coffee, these are normal things. They are not in themselves much of a problem, and you can imagine people working together all day falling into the trap, but I listened to him and I stood up to forgive him but the reason I changed my mind was when I saw him later he wasn’t really radiating repentance. The problem with that is what am I to say to my constituents when a man says I couldn’t hug my mother or father or my wife of 50 years died just before her 75th birthday?
“I had dinner with Boris Johnson once and I saw in him a real earnest love for the people of this country and their condition. Stripped of all joking and humour, an earnest love. People know it is there, that’s why they love him because he loves them. I am really saddened it has worked out like this because I saw that moment that he was the right man. The problem is once we got into the Christopher Pincher affair, ministers couldn’t trust they would be well brief by Number 10.
“So, they avalanched out of government and at that point, it was just over and I know people are terribly angry, upset and bitter. I have been called all the names under the sun, but we have to face the reality, if he wasn’t going, he couldn’t form a government. We can’t go on like that, you can’t stand alone and we needed to form a government. His government just collapsed, that is very serious, we need political stability. I regret he is going but it is the right decision and we need to find and find an optimistic way to move forward.”
On why he believes Suella Braverman is the right choice for leader he said: “In terms of experience, she does, of course, run her own department and she is the Attorney General so she is in the Cabinet and she advises on the law across all government departments. For me, I’ve been with Suella through hell and high water, the moment that came when we had to decide would we be the last people to stand against Theresa May’s deal and when I wobbled under the pressure, Suella didn’t. I
“I can still see her sitting there completely across all the detail as I was, and absolutely resolute. This country needs to be led by someone, as it has been before, someone with absolutely fierce resolve and the ability to listen to others, authenticity, good character, the charisma, and she has got it all. I’m excited to back her.”
“I believe in freedom because that’s the best way to make the people of this country prosper. We are not going to be going back to 1979, 1980 or 1990, we can only go forward. Margaret Thatcher famously said ‘no such thing as a society’ but what she meant was it is intangible. What does that mean? It means societal relationships and individuals and how they relate to one another. We’ve got to go forward with somebody who inspires in others a warm relationship and professionalism and responsibility. Whether it be at work, at home or in the family, we can’t go back to Thatcherism, we can only go forward with a new commitment to the values we know endure.”
Baker said he believes she also has the “power of character and influence to look treasury officials in the eyes” and tell them they are conducting business how she would like.
He said: “I see it in her day in and day out when I’m with her. In particular, I point to the Northern Ireland protocol. No one should be in any doubt whatsoever that the Northern Ireland protocol is in good shape because of Suella. Everyone else was wobbling backing away, being unsure, Suella, I am absolutely certain, was the one who got that bill into the right place.”
“I’ve been to the Irish embassy recently and we need to get away from the thought of seeing them off. What we’ve actually got to do is get into a place of collaborating and nurture the spirit of friendship so we can get out of this cul-de-sac of conflict. What is required is a great spirit of warmth and diplomacy, and I think, Suella, by combining the fierce resolve to say to them ‘make no mistake, we are going to sort out the protocol’, combined with the ability to say ‘actually we recognise we made mistakes in the past, let’s have a fresh start, a new beginning, a trusted relationship. I think by doing that, she can deliver change.
“Everybody across Europe, listening to this, they need to know that it doesn’t matter who wins this leadership contest on Brexit, the direction of this country is set, the Northern Ireland protocol needs resolving and I want someone to deal with all these things who is truly enthusiastic in the direction we are going in. I don’t want someone who made the wrong strategic calls in the past, who didn’t really fight for where we are. Suella made the right strategic calls and she fought for where we are.”
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