Tory leadership contenders argue in public over 'nervous breakdown' claims

10 July 2024, 15:37 | Updated: 10 July 2024, 19:40

Two of the contenders to become the next Conservative Party leader have started to bicker in public over leaks to a newspaper, which claimed one had accused the other of having a "very public" nervous breakdown.

The Times published the story on Tuesday, saying the remark had been made by shadow housing secretary Kemi Badenoch about ex-home secretary Suella Braverman during a shadow cabinet meeting.

The article also said Ms Badenoch had hit out at former prime minister Rishi Sunak for calling an election without informing his cabinet, and blamed his decision to return from D-Day commemorations in France early for the loss of cabinet ministers last Thursday.

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Posting on X a day later, Ms Badenoch said it was a "shame" the discussions had been leaked, adding: "If there is no private space to discuss our party's challenges, we will never fully address what the electorate told us last week."

But this was followed by a tweet from her rival, Ms Braverman, appearing to call her party colleague out.

"I'd be interested in knowing whether Kemi thinks I'm having a 'very public nervous breakdown'," she wrote, adding the hashtags "#honesty #unity #wedontleak".

While neither MP has publicly declared to be in the race to replace Mr Sunak, both are widely thought to be throwing their hats in the ring.

Ms Braverman has been ramping up her public appearances in recent days, making a number of controversial comments around LGBT+ issues, as well as giving her own analysis of the Conservatives' disastrous performance in the general election that saw them lose power to Labour and fall to 121 seats.

Shadow home secretary James Cleverly - who is also rumoured to be considering a run for leader - made a plea in The Times on Wednesday morning for the contest not to descend into "bitter in-fighting and finger-pointing", saying while the party needs a "sensible post-mortem", it should move on to make a "broad" offer to the electorate.