Suella Braverman blasts Kemi Badenoch as Tories ignore calls for unity

Suella Braverman blasts Kemi Badenoch as Tories ignore calls for unity

Two of the frontrunners in the race to replace Rishi Sunak as Tory leader have attacked each other, as infighting within the party deepens.

Just hours after ex-home secretaryJames Cleverly called for party unity, Suella Bravermanblasted her critics and claimed they were in “meltdown”.

She also named her rival Kemi Badenoch, tweeting: “I’d be interested in knowing whether Kemi thinks I’m having a ‘very public nervous breakdown’.”

Ms Badenoch reportedly made the breakdown comments as the Conservative frontbench met for the first time since losing power on Tuesday.

She also ignored the unity calls, appearing to stand by her remarks and tweeting that there had been far too much “nodding along” in cabinet when the party was in government.

Suella Braverman appearing via video link at a PopCon post-election event ( Screenshot)

Ms Braverman has faced a furious backlash since she launched an extraordinary attack on the LGBT+ community during a speech in Washington, in which she described government buildings flying rainbow flags as “occupied territory”.

Ms Braverman hit back at her opponents, saying: “The liberals are having a meltdown about my speech.”

She added: “Basic truths about our party are not easy to hear. But I’ll keep telling them on behalf of the common sense, patriotic, conservative majority.”

Earlier, Mr Cleverly said his party needed to unite after the damaging leak from the shadow cabinet and a row over the leadership of the influential 1922 Committee.

Mr Cleverly warned his party against “bitter infighting” ahead of the race to replace Mr Sunak as leader.

“That is exactly how we ended up here,” he wrote in The Times.

He added: “We must get our act together. We need to unite in order to deliver.

“It will take humility and hard work, to recover our reputation for competence and integrity, to rebuild trust in our party, and unite behind a broad platform that will give people a reason to vote Conservative again.”

But his call fell on deaf ears.

Kemi Badenoch reportedly used Rishi Sunak’s first shadow cabinet meeting to criticise his election campaign (PA Wire)

Dame Andrea Jenkyns also called Ms Badenoch “weak” for not criticising Mr Sunak sooner – and accused her of “trying to appear strong because there is a leadership election”.

At the first shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the shadow housing secretary is also said to have described the former prime minister’s decision to call an early general election without informing his cabinet as a mistake, bordering on “unconstitutional”.

Ms Badenoch accused Mr Sunak of instead first telling a small group of colleagues, including his parliamentary private secretary Craig Williams, who she is said to have called a “buffoon” after he admitted placing a bet on the election date.

She also called the former PM’s choice to leave D-Day commemorations early “disastrous” and said colleagues including Penny Mordaunt would have kept their seats if he had stayed longer in France.

‘We need to get our act together’: ex-home secretary James Cleverly has issued a warning to Tory party colleagues (PA)

As the infighting within the party intensifies, opponents of Ms Badenoch have claimed her supporters are helping Robert Jenrick’s campaign, in a bid to ensure their favoured candidate makes it into the run-off between the final two.

The Times reported Ms Badenoch is concerned the “enormity” of the Conservative Party’s landslide defeat is not being grasped by some colleagues and that she is urging a thorough post-mortem with lessons to be learned.

Mr Sunak had reportedly opened the meeting with an apology.

Rishi Sunak’s first speech as leader of the opposition in the House of Commons (Reuters)

Ms Badenoch’s remarks come after a number of shadow cabinet ministers paid tribute to Mr Sunak, with former chancellor Jeremy Hunt praising his “work ethic, dignity and commitment to public service”, which he said prevented the party from suffering an even worse defeat to Labour.

Meanwhile, furious Tory MPs have claimed there is a “plot” to determine who replaces Mr Sunak after controversy over the election of a new chair of the influential 1922 Committee.

On Wednesday night Mr Sunak spoke to his backbench MPs for the first since losing the general election, in an address that was described as “very sorrowful”.

MPs in the room also said there was “no hostility, none whatsoever” to their leader, despite the disastrous defeat to Labour.

While talk of an interim leader was not discussed one MP said he did not think it would be necessary.

Speaking after the meeting, however, one Tory grandee blasted his party over the loss .

Sir Edward Leigh said: “The Conservative Party will never recover until we start doing Conservative things.” That included more controls on migration, he added.

He said the meeting has been “fine” and “polite” but added that the party had to “stand for something” and win back the Reform voters it lost at the election.