Badenoch downplays rumours of plot to replace PM

Badenoch was similarly dismissive of a series of reports over the weekend and on Monday that some Tory MPs were plotting to remove Sunak, with the party still trailing by up to 20 points behind Labour in opinion polling…reports Asian Lite News

Reports of Conservative plots against Rishi Sunak are the work of just “one or two” MPs and the party needs to unite before May’s local elections, Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, has said.

Speaking later at a business event, Sunak dismissed talk of a threat to his leadership, saying: “I’m not interested in all Westminster politics. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the future of our country.”

Badenoch, in a sometimes combative media round, also said the Tories did not need to return £10m in donations from Frank Hester, saying it was only the media that were still interested in his comments about Diane Abbott that have been widely condemned as racist and misogynist.

“I’m actually quite surprised that people suggest this,” she told LBC when asked if the party should refuse donations from Hester, after a report revealed he had told a 2019 meeting that seeing Abbott on TV made “you just want to hate all black women”.

“This was something that happened five years ago,” Badenoch said. “He wasn’t talking to Diane Abbott. It wasn’t even really about Diane Abbott. He used her in a reference that was completely unacceptable. He’s apologised for it.”

Hester had released a statement saying he “accepts that he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago but his criticism had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”. The statement said Hester abhorred racism, “not least because he experienced it as the child of Irish immigrants in the 1970s”.

As well as the confirmed £10m already handed over, Hester has reportedly offered the party a further £5m, which would mean his donations alone are worth almost as much as the Conservatives spent in the entire 2019 election campaign.

Badenoch was similarly dismissive of a series of reports over the weekend and on Monday that some Tory MPs were plotting to remove Sunak, with the party still trailing by up to 20 points behind Labour in opinion polling.

A series of stories suggested that Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, could be used as a figure around which rebels could coalesce, while one said Sunak would simply call an election if his position was challenged.

Badenoch told LBC: “I think it is actually very easy for one or two people out of 350 to talk to the papers and generate news headlines. Yes, of course, there will be some people who are unhappy. I’m not going to deny that, but we need to move away from the scenario where one or two people can create all the news and 300 others can’t get a word.

“At this particular time it’s really important that we remember there are thousands of councillors all around the country who are going to be standing for election in May. We need people to focus on what they’ve been doing to help their local communities, and not be obsessed with Westminster psychodrama.”

Sunak, speaking in a pooled TV clip after a speech to an apprenticeships event in Warwickshire, refused to engage on why the Conservatives could accept another £5m from Hester.

“He’s already apologised for these comments,” he said. “And my point of view is when someone apologises genuinely, expresses remorse, that should be accepted. And that’s that.”

After Hester’s comments emerged last week, Downing Street initially condemned them only as wrong, declining to say they were racist until more than 24 hours later – soon after Badenoch had become the first cabinet minister to say this.

Asked why she had done it, Badenoch told Sky that the issue was “particularly pertinent because it was about a black woman, [and] I’m the only black woman in the cabinet”.

When asked whether it was problematic for the Conservatives to accept such large donations from Hester – who also said Abbott, the UK’s longest-serving black MP, “should be shot” – Badenoch said she was “amazed” that she was still being asked about the issue, blaming the media for being out of touch.

“The only reason why it’s still dominating the front page is because you are not interested in the work that government is doing,” she told BBC One’s Breakfast programme.

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