Kemi Badenoch voted Tories’ favourite minister of the year

Survey puts Badenoch narrowly ahead of Suella Braverman and Penny Mordaunt in race to succeed Rishi Sunak

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Friday 29 December 2023 09:55
Kemi Badenoch calls Labour MP 'liar' in transgender children clash

Kemi Badenoch is the Tory grassroots’ favourite minister of 2023 – putting her in pole position to succeed Rishi Sunak.

The business secretary pipped fellow right-winger Suella Braverman in the end of year ConservativeHomepoll of party supporters.

Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt was in third place in the survey, as top Tories jostle for position ahead of an expected general election defeat in 2024.

Ms Badenoch – who has styled herself as the “anti-woke” Tory pushing hard on culture war issues – won 174 of the 716 votes cast in the website’s survey.

Despite being sacked as home secretary in a blaze of controversy, Ms Braverman remains a favourite of the Tories’ right-wing base – taking 124 votes.

While Ms Badenoch has bolstered her experience in government by heralding post-Brexit trade agreements, Ms Braverman’s push for radical action on small boats remains her best hope of appealing to the grassroots.

Commons leader Ms Mordaunt – also believed to be keen to stand again if Mr Sunak if forced out after election defeat – took 85 votes in the survey of the grassroots.

Tory members, who veer further to the right than the party’s MPs, will likely decide the next leader in the event of a heavy election defeat in 2024.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch frontrunner to succeed Sunak

It comes as a new study found that a landslide Labour victory could push the Tory party even further to the right.

A further two per cent swing to Labour would leave around 40 per cent of remaining Tory MPs in right-wing groupings – compared to only 30 per cent now – according to analysis of Electoral Calculus data.

There has been mounting speculation that Mr Sunak will hold an earlier-than-expected election in the spring.

Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry claimed that a May election was the “worst kept secret in parliament”.

It emerged on Thursday that chancellor Jeremy Hunt will hold the Budget on 6 March – prompting Ms Thornberry to say it “seems to confirm” an early election.

'Bring it on': Emily Thornberry says UK 'desperate for election'

“The country is desperate for an election,” the shadow attorney general told Sky News. “Bring it on.”

But such claims are believed to be part of election year gamesmanship by Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

By building expectations of a spring contest, Labour is preparing the ground to accuse Mr Sunak of “bottling it” if he holds on until the autumn.

Mr Sunak’s closest aides remain set on an autumn election, in the hope it will give him more time to let better economic news sink in with the electorate.

But some Tories are talking up an earlier contest in the belief that the party’s polling fortunes could get even worse if the Rwanda deportation plan unravels

And some Conservatives hope Labour will spend campaign funds earlier to avoid being wrong-footed.

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