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Kemi Badenoch rejects claims she’s on manoeuvres for the PM’s job - in 4,000 word interview

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch has spoken of her frustration at reports she is pitching for Rishi Sunak’s job – in a 4,000 word interview.

Ms Badenoch told plotters working to oust the prime minister from office to stop “stirring” last month, before reports that she was in a Tory Whatsapp group called ‘Evil Plotters’.

She also refused to rule out another tilt at the top job, after standing to lead the party in wake of Boris Johnson’s departure.

In a new interview with the Times, she praised Mr Sunak’s “stability” as a leader, before complaining that “if I’m abroad making a trade deal, they say I’m on manoeuvres because I’m distancing myself from the government. But if I’m here making a speech, somehow I’m on manoeuvres too.”

In the wide-ranging interview she also said “snotty, middle-class north Londoners” she met at university were one reason she was a Tory.

“One of the things that drove me insane was how they talked about Africa. So high-minded: ‘We need to help Africans’… These stupid lefty white kids didn’t know what they were talking about. And that instinctively made me think, ‘These are not my people.’ ”

She also revealed she almost died in a flash flood in her constituency last year.

She said: “I always used to think, ‘How do people die in flash floods?’ “ But at the time “the water came from nowhere. And there was just a slight dip in the road and suddenly, all the electrics went off. We got out of the car. The water was thick and strong and fast. We were wading, waist deep, and it was pitch-black. I had heels on! The car got written off.”

“There could have been a by-election,” she added.

She also hit out at portrayals of her as a puppet of Michael Gove “as if I have no thoughts and no opinions of my own.”

She said their relationship was “not what it used to be, but he’s somebody I have to work with” following reports he had a relationship with a friend of hers.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch (Getty)
Business secretary Kemi Badenoch (Getty)

She also said death threats towards her had intensified since Nadine Dorries’s book The Plot, on Mr Johnson’s downfall. “If you get the unhelpful coalition of mental health issues and propensity to violence, then you read the Nadine Dorries conspiracy theory and decide you want to kill someone, it’s very, very nasty,” she said.

Last month Ms Badenoch warned the Tory party it could not keep treating prime ministers as “disposable”, as she said she was “extremely” frustrated at the speculation over her future.

At the time Johnson ally Ms Dorries accused her of pursuing her leadership ambitions, despite the denials.

On Ms Badenoch’s call for the plotters to shut up, Ms Dorries said: “She should take her own advice.”