Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, claimed “I don’t care about colonialism” in explosive leaked WhatsApp messages.
In a series of conversations obtained and published by VICE World News, Badenoch – who has just been handed an expansive new foreign affairs brief – wrote that European powers “just made a different bunch of winners and losers” in Africa.
The shocking disclosure comes days after it emerged that Badenoch had mocked LGBTQ rights in a leaked audio recording from 2018 – the same year some of the WhatsApp messages were sent.
“I don’t care about colonialism because [I] know what we were doing before colonialism got there. They came in and just made a different bunch of winners and losers,” Badenoch wrote.
“There was never any concept of ‘rights,’ so [the] people who lost out were old elites not every day people,” she said.
‘Divisive and inaccurate’
Labour branded Badenoch’s remarks “crass, divisive and painfully inaccurate” – while the government said it “does not comment on leaked private correspondence”.
The messages were sent privately or posted in a group chat called Conservative Friends of Nigeria. One of the group’s members, former associate and Tory supporter Funmi Adebayo, shared the messages with VICE.
Adebayo said she felt compelled to “speak up” after Badenoch was handed a new role at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office last week. She said the minister’s remarks were “dangerous and ignorant”.
“These messages show Kemi Badenoch’s deep lack of understanding – and ignorance – when it comes to the impact of British colonialism, especially on the Commonwealth nations,” she told VICE.
In another message, Badenoch criticised leading Black politicians in the UK – including Diane Abbott.
Asked whether she considered then-Tory MP and minister Sam Gyimyah a potential Tory leader, she replied: “Fuck no.”
“He has no friends or base in the party,” she continued. “Who is going to follow him.”
Badenoch also boasted of making a celebrated race academic cry in front of an audience.
“I was on a panel with Kimberle Crenshaw who is like the [queen] of critical race [theory] at UCLA or Stanford,” she wrote.
“She was practically in tears by the end of it [because] she literally had never heard the arguments I was making and could not respond.”
“And then she started shouting that I had no right to be on [the] panel…because I hadn’t read her book 😂.”
She also said that there are “too many inarticulate black [sic] people given front and centre stage.”
“Look [at] Diane Abbott,” she said, “practically the only black woman you see discussing politics and how she disgraced her selves [sic] not knowing her brief. That kinda stuff is sooo bad for us.”
‘Tried and tested Tory tactic’
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, told VICE that Badenoch’s comments were “crass, divisive and painfully inaccurate”.
She said: “For hundreds of years, the British Empire systematically underdeveloped and extracted resources from the global south. Blaming people for their own suffering and exploitation might be a tried and tested Tory tactic but it’s not actually what happened.”
A spokesperson from The Runnymede Trust – a UK-based race equality think-tank – said: “One thing that has been made all the more apparent in the past year is that the lasting legacy of colonialism still carries trauma and pain for our ethnic minority communities.
“The expansion of empire came at considerable cost to, and caused great pain to, those who were colonised and that legacy deserves our full consideration. Britain still has work to do to reconcile a complex and difficult history in an appropriate and sensitive manner.”