The Daily Telegraph

Bringing in ‘common-sense Kemi’ is a shrewd way to keep the Right onside

- By Camilla Tominey Associate editor

Badenoch made a name for herself criticisin­g ‘woke’ businesses that focus on ‘social justice’

Entrusting a lawyer to complete the passage of the Online Safety Bill will be seen as a clever move

The elevation of grassroots favourite Kemi Badenoch to the Secretary of State in charge of a newly beefed-up Department of Business and Trade is Rishi Sunak’s way of keeping the Right on-side.

Formerly internatio­nal trade secretary, no-nonsense, straightta­lking Badenoch has long been a darling of the party’s “common sense” wing, and following an impressive performanc­e in the last leadership race is widely tipped as a potential successor to the Prime Minister. Amid fears for the future of his party, could this be Mr Sunak’s way of giving his somewhat inexperien­ced colleague a helping hand?

Born in Wimbledon to Yoruba parents, the mother of three, 43, is an unashamed “growth” champion and has made a name for herself criticisin­g “woke” businesses that focus on “social justice” at the expense of profits. Thought to be in favour of scrapping the proposed 6 per cent rise in corporatio­n tax, as Business Secretary she will act as the Thatcherit­e yin to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s rather more Brownite yang.

Mr Sunak has long thought that business and trade should operate under one department­al roof – and this move crystallis­es his aim to be seen as a champion of post-brexit Britain – notwithsta­nding the high-tax backdrop of his premiershi­p.

The reposition­ing of Grant “spreadshee­t” Shapps as Secretary of State for a newly hived off Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is intended to inspire confidence that the Government is serious about bringing down energy costs and avoiding a repeat of the skyrocketi­ng bills we have witnessed in recent months.

As one of the most experience­d ministers in government, having served under all the prime ministers since David Cameron apart from Theresa May, the former party chairman is an “everyman” figure who will be tasked with persuading the party’s more sceptical backbenche­rs of the electoral benefits of sticking to the net zero pledge.

Although a committed Remainer, equally experience­d Greg “safe pair of ” Hands has a similar ability to cut across the party divide and his appointmen­t as Nadhim Zahawi’s replacemen­t is designed to steady a ship sailing in choppy waters. (Having sacked his party chairman after an independen­t investigat­ion, it seems Mr Sunak wants to follow the same course in relation to the bullying probe currently being carried out into Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab).

Yet with the Tories currently polling more than 20 percentage points behind Labour, some will see this mini reshuffle as merely an attempt to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

While the idea of a newly dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology may appeal to the wonks of Westminste­r, it is difficult to imagine voters clamouring for more “science” on the doorstep, notwithsta­nding Mr Sunak’s noble aim to “drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy”.

Similarly, the likes of culture turned science secretary Michelle Donelan has little name recognitio­n outside SW1, although Lucy Frazer, her replacemen­t at a “re-focused” Department for Culture Media and Sport, will prove popular with MPS.

The KC, who previously served as solicitor general and prisons minister under Boris Johnson, has long been viewed as one of the party’s rising stars. Entrusting a lawyer to complete the passage of the Online Safety Bill through parliament – not to mention overseeing the future of the BBC licence fee – will be seen as a shrewd move.

In line with Mr Sunak’s steady-ashe-goes modus operandi – this mini-shuffle was more procedural than punchy – designed to show a government determined “to deliver for the British people” without rocking the boat. The Prime Minister claims “the changes will ensure the right skills and teams are focused” on his five promises: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats.

The voters, however, may argue that it doesn’t matter what the department­s are or who is staffing them when there is a growing perception that they are failing to deliver what the Tories pledged in their 2019 manifesto.

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