Tory leadership contender Kemi Badenoch has branded the net zero climate target “unilateral economic disarmament” and vowed to axe it if elected.
The outsider but rising star took aim at existing government policies which “have overburdened our economy” and which “consume taxpayers hard-earned money”.
“Too many policies, like net zero targets, set up with no thought to the effects on industries in the poorer parts of this country,” Ms Badenoch told her campaign launch.
“The consequence is simply to displace emissions to other countries – unilateral economic disarmament. That is why we need to change and that is why I’m running to be leader.”
The comments are the starkest repudiation yet of the net zero commitment, in a leadership race that has alarmed the band of Conservative MPs passionate about it.
Suella Braverman, who is also vowing to be the candidate of the right, has also attacked the policy – while frontrunner Rishi Sunak has failed to mention it, having thwarted spending while chancellor.
Ms Badenoch also took aim at businesses whose “main priority is social justice, not productivity and profits”, calling it a “Ben & Jerry’s tendency”.
And doubling down on her opposition to the Online Harms Bill, she insisted the police should focus on crime and “not worrying about hurt feelings online”.
Ms Badenoch, who has the backing of Tory big-hitter Michael Gove, also took aim at candidates who have promised massive tax cuts, most notably Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi.
“I will not enter into a tax bidding war and say my tax cuts are bigger than yours,” she promised. “The dividing line in this race is not tax cuts, it’s judgment.
“It’s time to tell the truth. For too long politicians have been saying you can have it all – you can have your cake and eat it. But I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.”
“Governing involves trade-offs and you need to be honest about that,” she said, arguing the public is “crying out for honesty” from the next prime minister, a quality she would bring.
Ms Badenoch currently has 16 declared backers, putting her well on the way to the 20 required to enter the leadership contest when nominations close this evening.
The first ballot among the 359 Conservative MPs will be staged on Wednesday, when candidates will need 30 votes to progress through to the second ballot on Thursday.
More votes will be held next week, to whittle down the hopefuls to just two contenders by 21 July, with the final choice made by members.
The new prime minister will then be revealed on 5 September, dashing the hopes of many Conservative MPs that Mr Johnson could be forced out of No 10 sooner.