Kemi Badenoch urges former Tory voters to ‘come back’ and not support Reform UK

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said prospective Reform UK voters are “good people” who “don’t know who they’re voting for” as she addressed former Tory voters less than a week before the General Election.

Ms Badenoch, who is running for re-election in the redrawn North West Essex seat, told The Times she still believed the Tories could win the election but it was “going to be a hell of a fight”.

She said: “What I am asking those people who are Reform voters, or considering voting Reform, is that you are good people, I know that you feel some disappointment with our party, but don’t let these people who claim to be like you get in.

“They are not like you all. They are a totally different thing.”

Ms Badenoch continued: “I really want Reform voters to know that we’ve heard you. We understand. But you need to come back to the Conservative Party.”

Kemi Badenoch at lectern in orange jacket
Kemi Badenoch warned that Reform candidates were ‘not fit’ to make important political decisions (Carl Recine/PA)

She also warned that Reform candidates were “not fit” to make important political decisions and told Tories they should not allow its leader Nigel Farage to join their ranks.

It comes as the latest YouGov poll put Mr Farage’s party only one percentage point below the Conservatives, who polled at 18% to Labour’s 36%.

Ms Badenoch also suggested Mr Farage did not care about allegations of misogyny and racism in his party as it was “all a big show for him”.

Footage from a Channel 4 undercover investigation, released on Thursday, showed Reform campaigner Andrew Parker using a racist term about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and suggesting migrants should be used as “target practice”.

During his stint on Question Time on Friday, Mr Farage repeated claims that Mr Parker is an actor and he described the expose as “a political set-up of astonishing proportions”.

Nigel Farage on stage gesturing
Ms Badenoch’s comments come as the latest YouGov poll put Nigel Farage’s Reform UK only one percentage point behind the Conservatives (Peter Byrne/PA)

He added he was “not going to apologise” as what had happened was a “set-up, a deliberate attempt to smear us”.

Ms Badenoch also suggested many Reform supporters “don’t know who they’re voting for”.

The senior Conservative – who ran for party leadership in 2022 – hinted earlier this week at a tilt at the top job, saying “we will talk about leadership things after an election” and refusing to rule out her own bid.