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Explained: Who is Kemi Badenoch, the 'wild card' shaking up the UK PM race? – The Indian Express

Britain’s former equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, is the ‘wild card’ cutting a dash in a tightly contested Conservative Party race to replace Boris Johnson as the UK’s next prime minister.
Not only has Badenoch moved from relative obscurity to the list of final five in a crowded field of contenders, she has also topped a recent survey of party voters on their choice for the next PM.
In a poll of Tory voters conducted by the Conservative Home website, Badenoch came out on the top, with former chancellor to the exchequer Rishi Sunak placed fourth.
While Tory MPs have been rallying behind Sunak, the grassroots party members are the ones that will decide the outcome of the race.
Backstory
Born to Nigerian parents in the London suburb of Wimbledon, Badenoch, 42, spent her childhood in Nigeria and in the US, before returning to the UK at the age of 16. While she is a British citizen by birth, Badenoch described herself as a “first-generation immigrant” during her first House of Commons speech.
During her teenage years she worked at McDonald’s and then pursued computer engineering at the University of Sussex.
After earning her degree in 2003, Badenoch worked in the IT sector for the next three years. Her career also involved stints in the financial sector where she held jobs at the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Coutts Bank. She also ran digital operations at The Spectator magazine. According to her website, her interests include, “engineering and technology, social mobility and integration”.
Career in politics
Badenoch, who joined the Conservative Party at the age of 25 in 2005, was elected to parliament for the first time in 2017 from the Saffron Walden seat. Since then, she has held junior ministerial jobs, including the minister for equalities. However, she has never held a cabinet post.
In 2010, she fought and lost the general election from the Dulwich and West Norwood seat, and later did not contest the 2015 general election.
After failing to win a London Assembly election in 2012, Badenoch entered the Assembly after she was called upon to fill the seat vacated by Tory Victoria Borwick after she became an MP. Badenoch retained the seat in the 2016 London Assembly election.
She has also been the London Tory spokesman for economy, and was part of the Transport Committee and Policing and Crime Committee.
Her image as a committed Brexiter has won Badenoch strong support among the Tory voters. She had called Britain’s vote to leave EU “the greatest ever vote of confidence in the project of the United Kingdom”.
Campaign pledges & chances
Badenoch has promised lower taxes to boost growth, and tight spending discipline. Known for her frankness and strindent stance on sensitive issues, she had once invited both criticism and praise for saying that there was no evidence to suggest that UK was “institutinally racist”.
Anti-woke and right-wing, Badenoch – along with Liz Truss – is seen as someone who can protect Conservative Party values.
She has backed scrapping the “online harms bill” that requires social media sites and apps to takedown harmful content and has been a vocal critic of the UK’s net zero climate targets, according to the Financial Times.
In the two televised debates between the top contenders, Badenoch has seized her opportunity to shine coming across as articulate and honest. While Sunak has held his ground in these debates, Badenoch has made her presence felt ahead of future ballots where Conservative MPs will further narrow down the field by knocking out those with the least votes until only two remain.
About her chances in the race, Politico, quoting MPs from opposing camps, said that Badenoch appeals to those British voters who believe that the country’s politics has become “somewhat stale”.
In a recent article, right-leaning The Spectator described Badenoch as a “risk worth taking”.
However, the bookmakers, according to The Spectator, are betting that Tory MPs will not let Badenoch get to the final two.
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Saurabh KapoorHe works for The Indian Express…. read more

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