5 Things To Know About Kemi Badenoch, Who Could Eventually Be Britain’s First Black Prime Minister
After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was stepping aside after multiple scandals rocked his government, the race has been on to find a new candidate to lead his Conservative Party and serve as prime minister. Among the many candidates who emerged to take the top spot, a surprising favorite for many was a new face for British and Americans alike: Kemi Badenoch, a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP). Though she ended up finishing fourth in the current competition for Conservative Party leader, she’s made a name for herself that positions her well to potentially become Britain’s first Black leader. Here are five things to know about her.
She has roots in the UK, Nigeria and the U.S.
Badenoch was born in 1980 in the Wimbledon section of London to parents from Nigeria. Her parents are doctors, and her mother is also a university professor. After spending time in Nigeria and the U.S., Badenoch and her family returned to the UK when she was 16. Badenoch went on to study computer science and law — she used her computer science background in jobs in banking and for the Spectator news magazine.
She was in charge of fighting discrimination in the UK
After being elected as a member of parliament in 2019, Badenoch worked her way up in government and became minister for equalities under Prime Minister Johnson. This role put her in charge of promoting gender and racial equality in the country. Despite her position and identity as a Black woman, Badenoch has criticized identity politics and critical race theory. She was criticized by members of the Black community in Britain for downplaying the existence of structural racism in her role as equalities minister. Britain’s only Black newspaper once called her the “minister for gaslighting” for her stances on racism.
She’s a conservative in every sense of the word
Race is not the only issue on which Badenoch holds conservative views. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of Brexit, the process by which the UK left the European Union. Brexit was largely driven by opposition among British conservatives to immigration into the UK from the EU and other countries. Badenoch also opposes allowing trans people to self-identify their gender and is against gender-neutral public bathrooms, though she claims some of her comments on the issues were taken out of context.
She became a conservative star this month
Before Johnson’s resignation, Badenoch was not a household name in Britain, but the current leadership race has raised her status significantly. Several opinion polls put her at or near the top of the Conservative leadership race, and she was characterized as a rising star within the party. The fascist British First party endorsed her as the anti-woke candidate for leader. She also gained the backing of dozens of current MPs, eventually finishing fourth in the leadership race — the top three candidates continue to campaign this week.
Her loss in the current leadership race may benefit her in the long run
As the contest continues, the candidates have increasingly engaged in mudslinging that many see as damaging to all the candidates. Whoever ends up becoming Conservative Party leader and prime minister will inherit a mess left by Johnson and a Conservative Party seen as hypocrites and out of touch. Johnson and various other Conservative politicians have been implicated in many scandals, including multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations as well as engaging in free-flowing parties even as they enforced very strict COVID lockdown policies on the rest of the country during the height of the pandemic. With this baggage, the next prime minister may end up too tainted by their predecessor to save the party’s reputation.
By avoiding attachment to this mess, Badenoch is well-positioned to reemerge as a viable alternative. With a divided Conservative Party and opposition from the rival Labour Party, British politics will be highly competitive for years to come. Based on her performance this month, Badenoch could end up being a major political force for years to come.