11 July 2022

Kemi Badenoch is an unapologetic Conservative who’ll always be straight with voters

By Justin Tomlinson MP

Last week will live long in the memory for many. Never before have we seen such scenes in Westminster. For those of us in the fray it feels like a dramatic end of an era. But for those outside of the bubble, beyond the boundaries of SW1 and away from the blow-by-blow accounts of our rolling media, the story will be viewed very differently. Political infighting sees Prime Minister toppled; meanwhile the cost of living crisis rages on, our tax burden remains at its highest in decades and is set to grow further, and a culture of censorship and ‘cancellation’ shrinks the boundaries of free speech further and further. 

It is weeks like the last one that bring into stark clarity the divide between our political classes and those that elected to put us where we are. But we now have an opportunity to set that right, by electing a leader who understands this problem and how to overcome it – someone that knows that ordinary people do not want simplified slogans and comfortable falsehoods, but the truth about our problems and a clear path through them. That leader is Kemi Badenoch. 

I took the difficult decision this weekend to resign my role as Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party in order to support Kemi’s bid for the leadership. In that role I worked with colleagues on a daily basis, campaigning to communicate our mission and achievements to voters. I understand just how important it is to have an honest, straight-talking leader who will be direct with voters about the challenges that we are facing as a nation, and how we are going to take them on.

Being able to communicate to voters is central to what all of us do. We must earn the right to represent our constituents. Without a clear narrative and the ability to show how the conservative principles of freedom, hard work, enterprise, and opportunity make a positive and tangible difference to people’s lives, we do not have a hope of returning a Conservative majority at the next election. 

These conservative values are simultaneously both universal and distinctly British. On the doorstep voters ask how we intend to reduce the cost of living, create more jobs, and lower the burdens of rules and taxes that face them in their day-to-day lives. The answers to these questions are conservative ones – as Margaret Thatcher said, the very facts of life are conservative. 

Kemi Badenoch has a firm grasp of this, and wears her conservatism unapologetically. She understands that to win over voters you must treat them like adults. Then you must offer convincing solutions to the problems they face. This is where the Labour Party struggles – they don’t want to tell voters the truth or offer compelling solutions. They do not have answers to the simplest questions, and are afraid to show the common values of patriotism and pride. A candidate like Kemi will highlight that for everyone to see.

What we need above all else is a leader that shares our values and can articulate them to voters. A confident and self-assured Conservative Party with a clear vision has the answers to the burning questions, and those that Labour can’t face. With the right leader, we can bridge the traditional political divide. Kemi Badenoch is that leader.

Her ability to cut through the Westminster milieu and focus relentlessly on ordinary people can partly be explained by her background. Having lived in Nigeria as a child, worked in McDonald’s as she studied for her A-Levels, and spent time as a maths tutor, secretary, shop assistant and software engineer, she understands what it means to participate in and contribute to the economy in the way that millions of Brits do. She knows that they don’t want gimmicky slogans or false but comforting promises. 

With the combination of a clear, truly conservative vision and straight-talking honesty with voters, I believe we can reach beyond just defending the seats we won in 2019, and once again put the Conservative Party on the front foot. This is why Kemi Badenoch commands my support for leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister.

CapX is publishing editorials on a number of Tory leadership candidates. We are not endorsing any specific campaign.

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Justin Tomlinson is the MP for North Swindon and former Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.