November 16, 2022 - 1:00pm

International Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch has warned of the rise of “new authoritarians” who “want to stop everything and ban everything”.

Speaking at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, the minister argued that young people were prone to this way of thinking even if their sentiment is “coming from a good place”. “They are trying to create safetyism,” Badenoch said, “a world where nothing bad happens, and they see liberty as a challenge to that when, actually, liberty is the thing that protects us all.”

According to the minister, this is why a “loss of epistemic authority” is now the most serious threat to individual liberty in the U.K.. Expressing fears about “people not knowing what is true and what is false,” Badenoch argued that this is “a huge problem for those of us who believe in liberty.” She further warned that “when people can’t tell what’s true and what’s false, they move into a space where they worry about how they feel and how things make them feel.” Consequently they “look to restrict free speech in particular, which means you don’t have the debate, you don’t get the ideas, you don’t challenge the problems.” 

The minister, who stood in this summer’s leadership election following the resignation of Boris Johnson, was also questioned about her reputation as a culture warrior. Asked whether this epithet was fair, the trade minister responded: “Being a politician, other people try and write your story for you and you lose control of your own narrative.” 

Having held the equalities brief before her bid for the Conservative Party leadership, Badenoch stressed that her job required her to protect “everyone, irrespective their sexual orientation, their sex, their race, but those are all the contentious issues that we see today.” She continued:

The very fact that I was talking about [these issues] meant that I would be badged as a culture warrior unless I took the most progressive line possible […] But I’m a conservative, which meant that I took the conservative line.
- Kemi Badenoch

Despite her conservatism, Badenoch described it as “really odd” that the positions she held were considered “socially liberal not that long ago”. “I see myself very much as a classical liberal,” she said. “Because we keep moving, socially, in a particular direction […] the people who take the progressive line will assume that me trying to maintain the conservative line makes me a culture warrior. I don’t know, I’m just trying to do the right thing.”


Rob Lownie is UnHerd’s Assistant Editor, Newsroom.

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