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Suella Braverman argues with Kemi Badenoch over her ‘break-up’ comment

  • Author, Vicki young
  • Role, Deputy Political Editor

A row has broken out between potential rivals for the Conservative leadership Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch after Mrs Badenoch accused the former home secretary of suffering a “very public” nervous breakdown.

As first reported by The Times, Ms Badenoch used a shadow cabinet meeting to criticise Rishi Sunak but also Ms Braverman for making public attacks on the party during the election campaign.

Ms Badenoch said it was a “disgrace” the debate had been leaked and there needed to be a “private space” for the Conservatives to discuss their challenges.

Responding to a social media post, Ms Braverman said: “I’d be interested to know if Kemi thinks I’m having a ‘very public breakdown’,” adding the hashtag: “We don’t leak.”

Speaking at a shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Ms Badenoch said some of her colleagues were failing to grasp the “enormity” of the party’s general election defeat, which saw it fall to its lowest number of MPs in history.

After her comments were leaked, Ms Badenoch appeared to defend her criticism.

“That culture has to change. We have to be honest with each other privately and united in the direction we take next.”

Suella Braverman responded in another post on social media saying: “Kemi and the rest of the cabinet should not have nodded as they and Rishi led the party into disaster.

“The refusal to take responsibility is the root of our problem.

“It wasn’t anyone else’s fault.”

So far, no one has publicly stated that they will stand to replace Sunak, who has said he will remain leader as long as the party wants him to.

Conservative MPs are keeping mum on who they are likely to support.

But any hopes that the contest would unify the party will have been dashed by the public clash between Ms Braverman and Ms Badenoch.

A shadow cabinet minister who was present at Tuesday’s meeting where Ms Badenoch criticised Mr Sunak said: “We all know what Kemi is doing.”

Another said at least one colleague had privately told her she needs to be “less abrasive” if she wants to win the support of her colleagues.

Others have been irritated by Ms. Braverman’s actions.

On the eve of the general election he wrote an article harshly criticising Mr Sunak.

A speech earlier this week also angered some Tories, including Ben Houchen, the mayor of Teesside.

He told Times Radio: “If the Conservative Party decides to go the way of someone like Suella Braverman, then we can absolutely see ourselves in opposition for generations to come.”

While no timetable has been set for the leadership election, there appears to be a growing consensus among MPs that a longer process would be better for the party.

A former cabinet minister said they would like the party conference in October to be an opportunity for members to assess the merits of each candidate.

Next week, Conservative MPs will vote on which of their colleagues should sit on the party’s executive committee, the group that will decide the rules for the leadership race.

Voting to elect members of the party’s board of directors took place on Wednesday, but will be re-run because one of the candidates was left off the ballot.

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