All The Controversies Kemi Badenoch Has Been Involved In Since Becoming An MP Five Years Ago

The 'anti-woke' MP is second in polling of Conservative members, only behind Penny Mordaunt.

Kemi Badenoch

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

You'd be forgiven for not knowing many MPs who had only been in place for five years. But when it comes to Kemi Badenoch, she's managed to, how shall we put this, end up in the headlines quite a lot in that short time.

That was before she announced her intention to stand as Conservative Party leader - and therefore, following Boris Johnson's resignation, the next Prime Minister.

A recent YouGov poll of Conservative members released on Wednesday placed her second favourite behind Penny Mordaunt and above former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

So, who is the woman second in the running to become our next Prime Minister - and more to the point, what do we need to know about her?

Who is Kemi Badenoch and how old is she?

Olukemi Olufunto Badenoch (nee Adegoke) has been the MP for Saffron Walden for five years - re-elected in 2019.

Aged 42, Badenoch has held many positions in government since she became an MP in 2017.

She has been Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Equalities, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education. She's also the former Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party and former member of the Justice Select Committee.

Before becoming an MP, she was a Conservative member of the London Assembly and was also the party's spokesperson for the economy.

Yes, she worked at McDonald's after moving to the UK from Nigeria

We're preeeeetty sure this puts her in a class of one in the Tory leadership race, but Kemi Badenoch did work at McDonald's as a teenager.

Badenoch was born in Wimbledon, before her family returned to Nigeria when she was just two weeks old, before returning to the UK as a teenager.

Aged 16, she worked at McDonald's while putting herself through two degrees. Speaking to The Times, she said: 'You would have people from college who would turn up and laugh at me because I was there with my hat and my badge and I didn’t have any stars. But it was what I had to do. I didn’t have any money. My parents weren’t here and I was living with family friends. So I had a roof over my head, but I needed to earn to live. There’s a dignity that you just get from working and earning your own money.'

She hacked Harriet Harman's website...

In 2018, the Mail on Sunday published a video in which Badenoch was asked what the naughtiest thing she'd ever done was. She said: 'About 10 years ago I hacked into a Labour MP's website and I changed all the stuff in there to say nice things about Tories. This was a foolish prank over a decade ago, for which I apologise.'

It was later revealed the the MP was Harriet Harman, who then tweeted to say Badenoch had apologised and she'd accepted her apology.

She insulted trans people and mocked LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage in a video... while Equalities Minister

In September 2021, Vice News obtained a video of Badenoch - then Equalities Minister - attacking a range of LGBTQ rights.

In the video, she used the phrase transsexual (which is considered outdated and offensive) and misgendered trans people.

She was recorded saying: 'It’s no longer about minority rights in terms of race any more or nationality, it’s now, you know like, it’s not even about sexuality now, it’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage, and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for?”

She addeed: 'Even when, you know, so, people hear about, you know like the whole bathroom thing, it’s actually more of an American thing but they have a similar problem, that, right so now it’s not just about being free to marry who you want, you now want to have men using women’s bathrooms.'

Labour at the time questioned if she should be in her post. A government spokesperson told Vice News: 'This 2018 comment has been taken out of context, with the Minister making a clear point about striking the balance for equality and fairness when there are multiple and often competing demands between different groups. It should not be used to misrepresent her views.'

Some called for her to quit as Equalities Minister because of her speech on conversion therapy

In April, the government announced they planned to scrap their planned ban on conversion therapy. They then changed their mind and they said they'd go ahead with the ban - except it wouldn't include measures to protect trans people. This issue is still ongoing.

However, in March, a speech made by Badenoch caused outrage amongst many LGBT associations.

In the speech, she said conversion therapy had no place 'in a civilised society' but that laws were already in place to deal with many examples adding the government did not 'intend to stop those who wish to seek spiritual counselling as they explore their sexual orientation.'

She added: 'There will also be cases where a line is crossed, where someone is actively seeking to change another's sexual orientation. The government will be exercising great care when considering what constitutes conversion therapy, what does not and therefore how the government should intervene.'

At the time, her speech caused upset. Aformer member of the government's LGBT+ advisory panel, Jayne Ozanne, told the BBC it was an 'appalling' speech.

A government spokesperson told the BBC: 'Earlier this week the minister set out the government's desire to end conversion therapy, making it clear that the practice has no place in a civilised society. We are working to bring forward plans to do so shortly.'

She was criticised over her comments about Black History Month

During Black History Month last year, she said it was 'racism history month' and was becoming overly-politicised.

She told Sky News: 'It’s an American import, which hasn’t always fitted exactly with what I would call British and Commonwealth history.

'But what I’m also seeing is there’s politicisation happening in every sphere and I see it happening even there where Black History Month becomes racism history month, which isn’t what it should be.'

She criticised schools teaching white privilege

In a debate in October 2020, Badenoch said that schools who taught pupils about white privilege could be breaking the law.

She said: 'Any school which teaches these elements of political race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.'

She also said schools have a statutory duty to remain politically impartial and should not openly support 'the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group'.

Kemi Badenoch's campaign video, launch and gender-neutral toilets...

Launching her campaign, Badenoch mainly grabbed headlines by refusing to, like many of her co-runners, promise tax cuts.

She said other politicians were making out that you could 'have your cake and eat it' with tax cuts.

You can watch the video of her campaign launch below.

But Badenoch made headlines for other reasons at her campaign launch. At the event, reporters noted that pieces of paper had been placed on top of signs for gender-neutral bathrooms, saying 'men' and 'ladies'

Kemi Badenoch and the Online Safety Bill

This week, Kemi Badenoch got into a Twitter spat with Nadine Dorries (and was criticised by other ministers) over her comments on the Online Safety Bill.

The Online Safety Bill was a flagship Tory policy which has now been moved to autumn as they ran out of parliamentary time to complete it.

After the news was announced, Badenoch tweeted: 'This would be the right move. The Bill is in no fit state to become law. If I'm elected prime minister I will ensure the Bill doesn't overreach. We should not be legislating for hurt feelings.'

Many took exception to the characterisation of 'legislating for hurt feelings, including MP Nadine Dorries, who retorted: 'Which part of the Bill legislates for hurt feelings, Kemi?'

Does Kemi Badenoch believe in Net Zero?

There have been concerns raised that if Badenoch was to become PM, she would end the UK's commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, something many see as key in tackling climate change.

Speaking to The Times, she qualified her stance on climate change and net zero, saying: 'I believe in climate change. I think we need to do something about it. But the question I think we should be asking is how can we increase the capacity of the electricity grid to make sure that when everybody’s electric car plugs in, it works.

'People don’t want to answer those questions. Instead they glue themselves to railings and demand that the government do something extreme. That’s not actually going to fix a system problem, like the grid.

'My issue isn’t that 2050 is the right or wrong target . . . I just think we need to change how we talk about it.'

Who is Kemi Badenoch's husband and does she have children?

Kemi Badenoch is married to Hamish Badenoch - he was formally a Conservative councillor for Merton Borough Council between 2014 and 2018.

The couple have three children - two daughters and a son.

In 2019, she told Graziaabout being promoted while heavily pregnant.

She said: 'I’m nine months pregnant and about to go on maternity leave and yet, just last month, I was promoted. Eight months into my third pregnancy, Boris Johnson offered me the job of Children and Families Minister in the Department for Education. It’s often assumed that when you’re pregnant you’re not going to get a promotion or a new job; you’ll be overlooked as people think you’re not able to do it.

'But the Prime Minister is leading the way in showing it’s about what people can do, not about the current state of their bodies.'

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