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Kemi Badenoch refuses to enter ‘tax bidding war’ in Tory leadership campaign

The former equalities minister launched her bid to become the next Tory leader at an office venue in Westminster, central London, on Tuesday.

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Conservative leadership contender Kemi Badenoch refused to enter a “tax bidding war” with her competitors and said she will level with the public over the measures needed to stabilise the economy (Handout/PA)

Conservative leadership contender Kemi Badenoch refused to enter a “tax bidding war” with her competitors and said she will level with the public over the measures needed to stabilise the economy (Handout/PA)

Conservative leadership contender Kemi Badenoch refused to enter a “tax bidding war” with her competitors and said she will level with the public over the measures needed to stabilise the economy (Handout/PA)

Conservative leadership contender Kemi Badenoch refused to enter a “tax bidding war” with her competitors and said she will level with the public over the measures needed to stabilise the economy.

At the launch of her campaign in Westminster, the former equalities minister said some politicians have been claiming that “you can have your cake and eat it” with tax cuts.

Ms Badenoch, who has never held a Cabinet position, is running on a platform of being the “fresh face” the Conservative party needs after being dogged by the scandals of Boris Johnson’s tenure.

The 42-year-old MP for Saffron Walden has the declared support of 15 colleagues, including recent Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who was at her campaign launch on Tuesday.

Standing in front of a union flag-patterned backdrop bearing the slogan “Kemi for Prime Minister”, she said: “In the debate we’ve been having about the future of our party and our country, there have been lots of promises to cut taxes.

“I am committed to reducing corporate and personal taxes but I will not enter into a tax bidding war over, ‘My tax cuts are bigger than yours’.”

“For too long, politicians have been saying, ‘You can have it all; you can have your cake and eat it’,” she added.

There are always tough choices in life and in politics: no free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on Government spending, no stronger defence without a slimmer stateKemi Badenoch

“But I’m here to tell you that that isn’t true. It never has been.

“There are always tough choices in life and in politics; no free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on Government spending, no stronger defence without a slimmer state.

“Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver them.”

Ms Badenoch said she would tackle the economic crisis by cutting spending on international aid, university student subsidies, and “superfluous support staff”, including wellbeing officers and diversity “tick-box exercises”.

Her stance on “identity politics” appeared to be reflected by paper labels reading “men” and “ladies” that were taped to the doors of the gender-neutral toilets at her launch venue.

Ms Badenoch said: “While the priority of the £300 billion the Government spends on procurement should be value for money, in truth this is being undermined by tick-box exercises in sustainability, diversity and equality.

“These are good things but they need to be done properly.

“Why are we spending millions on people’s jobs which literally didn’t exist a decade ago, like staff wellbeing co-ordinators in the public sector?”

She said she would “get the police to focus on neighbourhood crime” rather than “waste time and resources worrying about hurt feelings online”.

Taking aim at an ice cream company, the MP also said she would stamp out “the Ben and Jerry’s tendency” to say “a business’s main priority is social justice” rather than “productivity and profit”.

Ms Badenoch, who was born in Wimbledon and grew up in the US and Nigeria, where her parents are from, also pledged to “reduce the amount of international aid while still remaining a force for good in the world”.

She is competing with prominent Cabinet faces including Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, but said her lack of experience is a “huge advantage” because she does not come with “the baggage of so many of the decisions that have been made” in recent years.

“People want a fresh face and they can’t have somebody who has been in Cabinet a very long time,” she said.

Ms Badenoch said she has “a lot of respect” for Mr Sunak and Ms Truss but is “not worried” about running against them.

The MP of five years also branded the current net-zero policy as “unilateral economic disarmament” due to being pursued “without thought for industries in the poorer areas” of the UK.

She said her Government would be guided by the “Conservative principles” of a “limited government doing less but better” and a “strong nation state”.

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