Leaks Reveal UK Equalities Minister Dismissed Colonialism, Mocked Trans People
19:53 GMT 22.09.2021 (Updated: 15:16 GMT 28.05.2023)
A series of leaks have revealed that Kemi Badenoch, the UK’s parliamentary under-secretary of state for equalities, made disparaging comments about transgender people and was dismissive of the effects of British rule on its colonies.
According to VICE World News, which viewed messages sent by Badenoch on WhatsApp in 2018, the equalities minister mocked many high-profile Black political figures in the UK and flatly said “I don't care about colonialism.”
The messages were either sent privately or posted on a chat called Conservative Friends of Nigeria. The person who leaked the messages, Funmi Adebayo, said they felt compelled to bring Badenoch’s comments to public attention after she was given a portfolio at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“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 said in one message. “There was never any concept of ‘rights,’ so [the] people who lost out were old elites, not everyday people.”
Born in Wimbledon, Badenoch’s family returned to Nigeria for much of her youth before moving back to the UK when she was 16. She said in other messages that she had a “mini-identity crisis” in her twenties after speaking with a colleague “who would just be sacked for racism” today. She said, “he was very aggressive in challenging my view of what African achievement actually was.”
Adebayo, a Conservative supporter who was an investment banker when they first met Badenoch, told Vice they “looked up” to her as one of the party’s few Black women. Now, however, they said Badenoch’s comments are “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,” Adebayo told the outlet.
“I think she's absolutely the wrong person to be sitting in this office that she has now been given,” Adewayo said Badenoch’s foreign office appointment. “As great as it is to see a Black woman in her position of power, and as great as that is for representation, she is not equipped, she does not have the knowledge, she does not have the experience, nor does she have the empathy to be in such a role. I hope that it is strongly understood that just because she is a Black woman, does not mean that she can be the spokesperson for all Black people.”
British colonization of Nigeria began in the 17th century with the African slave trade, which saw up to 20,000 slaves transported west across the Atlantic every year by the end of the century and up to 76,000 people per year by the late 18th century, with ports like Lagos becoming important hubs for the slave trade. The slave trade was abolishd in 1807, and military conquest of the interior of the continent came later in the 19th century. The colony exported tin, cotton, cocoa, groundnuts, and palm oil. It gained independence in 1960.
© AP Photo / Ben BirchallThe statue of Edward Colston is thrown into the harbour in Bristol.
The statue of Edward Colston is thrown into the harbour in Bristol.
© AP Photo / Ben Birchall
Criticism of Leading Black Figures
Other messages leaked to Vice included dismissals of leading Black politicians, academics and public figures, including boasting about bringing Kimberle Crenshaw, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School who is credited with coining the term “intersectionality,” to tears.
“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,” Badenoch said of the critical race theorist. “And then she started shouting that I had no right to be on [the] panel…because I hadn’t read her book 😂.”
Some other targets included Tory MP and government minister Sam Gyimah, who she dismissed as a potential leader of the Conservative Party, and Diane Abbott, who at the time of her comments was shadow home secretary.
Badenoch is well-known as a critic of critical race theory. Last year, she blasted teachings about “white privilege” in schools and the idea that history education in the country is distorted by its colonial legacy.
‘Men Using Women’s Restrooms’
The leak comes just days after a recording surfaced in which Badenoch, whose post at the Government Equalities Office has her overseeing the advancement of women and fighting against all forms of discrimination, was wholly dismissive of transgender people’s campaign for equality, calling trans women “men.”
“It’s not even about sexuality now. It’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage, and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for?” she said in audio also given to Vice World News. They were also recorded in 2018, prior to her being posted to the equalities ministry in 2020.
“Even when, you know, so, people hear about, you know like the whole bathroom thing, it’s actually more of an American thing, but they have a similar problem, that, right so now it’s not just about being free to marry who you want, you now want to have men using women’s bathrooms.”
According to Vice, which did not post the leaked audio, in the recording, Badenoch “also appears to mock gay marriage, and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which was spearheaded by several of her predecessors as equalities minister.”
Stonewall, a British LGBTQ rights charity named after the 1969 trans-led riot in New York credited with sparking the modern LGBTQ equality movement, called the minister’s comments “hurtful and harmful to LGBTQ+ communities.” Vice also noted her misgendering of trans women may violate British anti-harassment laws.
Badenoch has also aroused fury after admitting in 2018 to having hacked a Labour MP’s website in 2008 to post pro-Conservative messages on it. She apologized for the incident, calling it a “foolish prank.”