Kemi Badenoch refuses to enter ‘tax bidding war’ in Tory leadership campaign

Conservative leadership candidate Kemi Badenoch has refused to get into a ‘fiscal bidding war’ with rivals and said she will agree with the public on what steps are needed to stabilize the economy .

At her campaign launch in Westminster, the former equality minister said some politicians claimed ‘you can have your cake and eat it’ with tax cuts.

Ms Badenoch, who has never held a Cabinet post, is touting herself as the ‘new face’ the Conservative Party needs after being dogged by Boris Johnson’s tenure scandals.

The 42-year-old MP for Saffron Walden has the declared support of 15 colleagues, including recent minister Michael Gove, who attended her campaign launch on Tuesday.

Standing in front of a union flag-patterned backdrop bearing the slogan ‘Kemi for Prime Minister’, she said: ‘In the debate we have had about the future of our party and our country, there has been lots of promises to cut taxes.

“I am committed to reducing corporate and personal taxes, but I will not get into a tax bidding war on ‘My tax cuts are more important than yours’.”

“For too long politicians have said, ‘You can have it all; you can have your cake and eat it,” she added.

“But I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It never was.

“There are always difficult choices in life and in politics; no free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on government spending, no stronger defense without a leaner state.

“Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver them.”

Ms Badenoch said she would tackle the economic crisis by cutting spending on international aid, grants to university students and ‘superfluous support staff’, including welfare workers and ‘exercises at tick” for diversity.

She said: ‘While the priority of the £300bn the government is spending on procurement should be value for money, in truth this is undermined by tick-box exercises in sustainability, diversity and equality.

“These are good things, but they have to be done right.

“Why are we spending millions on jobs that literally didn’t exist a decade ago, like staff welfare coordinators in the public sector?”

She said she would “get police to focus on neighborhood crime” rather than “wasting time and resources worrying about hurt feelings online.”

Taking aim at an ice cream company, the MP also said she would eliminate “Ben and Jerry’s tendency” to say “a company’s main priority is social justice” rather than “productivity and profit”.

Ms Badenoch, who was born at Wimbledon and raised in the United States and Nigeria, where her parents are from, also pledged to “reduce the amount of international aid while remaining a force for good in the world”.

She competes with prominent Cabinet faces including Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, but said her lack of experience is a ‘huge advantage’ as she doesn’t come with ‘the baggage of so many decisions that have been taken” in recent years.

“People want a new face and they can’t have someone who’s been in cabinet for very long,” she said.

Ms Badenoch said she had ‘a lot of respect’ for Mr Sunak and Ms Truss but was ‘not worried’ about running against them.

The five-year-old MP also called the current net zero policy “unilateral economic disarmament” because of its pursuit “without thinking about industries in the poorer parts” of the UK.

She said her government would be guided by the “conservative principles” of a “limited government doing less but better” and a “strong nation state”.

Laura J. Boyer