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Braverman hits out at Badenoch’s ‘nervous breakdown’ comment as row escalates

The two potential rivals for the Tory leadership have traded barbs ahead of the race to replace Rishi Sunak.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman has hit out at reported comments by Kemi Badenoch about her having a breakdown, as the rancour between the two Tory leadership rivals descended into a public slanging match.

Shadow housing secretary Ms Badenoch reportedly used Rishi Sunak’s first shadow cabinet meeting to criticise his election campaign and accuse Ms Braverman of having a “very public” nervous breakdown.

Ms Badenoch on Wednesday said it was a “shame” the discussions had been leaked, but renewed her attack on the previous Tory government by saying there was “too much nodding along in the room”.

And she did not deny making the nervous breakdown remark about Ms Braverman.

The former home secretary took to X, formerly Twitter, to say: “I’d be interested in knowing whether Kemi thinks I’m having a ‘very public nervous breakdown’.”

The row came just hours after shadow home secretary James Cleverly called for the party to unite as he warned against “bitter infighting”.

Mr Sunak is expected to address the 1922 Committee of backbenchers later on Wednesday after an acrimonious meeting of the panel which will set out the rules and timeline of the leadership contest.

He announced last week that he would step down as party leader once the formal arrangements for choosing a successor are in place.

Ms Badenoch, who is considered a frontrunner in the race, reiterated the criticism of Mr Sunak’s administration she reportedly voiced in the first meeting of the Conservative front bench since losing power.

She wrote in a post on X: “It’s a shame our discussions in Shadow Cabinet were leaked yesterday. If there is no private space to discuss our Party’s challenges, we will never fully address what the electorate told us last week.

“The views of those outside these meetings matter too. Not just backbench MPs, but our party activists, members and friends who lost seats after giving everything to the campaign.

“In government, we had too much nodding along in the room and arguments outside it. That culture needs to change. We need to be honest with one another in private, and united in the direction we take afterwards.”

In Tuesday’s gathering of the shadow cabinet, she reportedly called Mr Sunak’s decision 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.

If she throws her hat in the ring, Ms Badenoch could face competition from fellow right-winger Ms Braverman.

Ms Badenoch reportedly made the nervous breakdown comment after Ms Braverman hit out at “liberal Conservatives” at an event in Washington DC and at a Popular Conservatism gathering in London.

Ms Braverman on Wednesday echoed her previous words by posting on X: “The liberals are having a meltdown about my speech.

“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.”

Other possible candidates for the party leadership include Mr Cleverly; Dame Priti Patel, who served as home secretary between July 2019 and September 2022; Robert Jenrick, who previously served as immigration minister; and ex-health secretary Victoria Atkins.

Right-wingers and more moderate Tories are expected to battle it out for the top job in a contest that could shape the party for years to come.

Shadow chancellor Jeremy Hunt, a centrist figure in the party, has ruled out running.

The 1922 Committee on Tuesday elected Bob Blackman as its new chair, but not without Tory MP Mark Francois complaining the vote was “bent” after he attempted to vote but was turned away.

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