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Catholic MP, ex-faith minister vying to be next UK PM as race kicks off to replace Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement in front of 10 Downing Street in central London on July 7, 2022. - U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday quit as Conservative party leader, after three tumultuous years in charge marked by Brexit negotiations, COVID-19 lockdowns and mounting scandals. |

Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, a Catholic, and former Tory Member of Parliament Kemi Badenoch, who describes herself as a “cultural Christian,” are among those running to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced his pending resignation last week.

“I am putting together a broad coalition of colleagues that will bring new energy and ideas to government,” wrote Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, in a piece for The Telegraph.

“My view is clear — the Conservative Party must be a broad church that anyone can find their home in, whether young or old, northern or southern, renter or owner,” writes the MP for Tonbridge and Malling. “We must show leadership and conviction on our Conservative values and their ability to enrich lives across every part of the country.”

In November 2017, Tugendhat, who has studied Christian and Islamic theology, appealed to Johnson on behalf of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held in an Iranian prison on the false accusation of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government, Premier Christian News noted.

Tugendhat had urged Johnson to ask either the U.K. heads of the Anglican or Catholic Church to negotiate her release at the time. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was finally released in March this year, as The Christian Post reported. 

In a debate about the EU referendum and Catholic values in 2016, Tugendhat urged the faithful not to lose sight of the foundational beliefs that united citizens ahead of the Remain versus Leave vote that was subsequently won by Brexit supporters. 

The MP previously served on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and as the military assistant to the chief of the defense staff, according to his bio on the website of St. Augustine’s College of Theology. “When the Iraq War broke out in 2003, Tom was mobilized as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines."

Tugendhat also went to Beirut as a journalist where he wrote about the conflict as well as regional politics and economics. 

Badenoch, the former MP for Saffron Walden, who was brought up in Nigeria and once worked at McDonald's while studying for her A-levels at school, also announced her candidacy in a piece for The Sunday Times.

“I’m putting myself forward in this leadership election because I want to tell the truth. It’s the truth that will set us free,” wrote the former Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities, which included being the government’s liaison for the country’s faith leaders.

“The mainstream right has too often become detached from its voter base, and rather than seeking to understand the new challenges voters faced, ignored them, leading to electoral failure and paving the way for populism in desperation. We cannot allow that to happen here,” the 42-year-old politician added.

“We need strong but limited government focused on the essentials,” she wrote. “Lower taxes yes, but to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline.”

Badenoch’s maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister and her paternal grandfather was a Muslim who converted in later life, according to a 2017 interview with Conservative Home.

She is married to Hamish Badenoch, a Catholic, with whom she has two children.

“My family’s sort of Anglican and Methodist. My maternal grandfather was a Methodist reverend,” she said in the interview. “… I’m an honorary or associate member of the Catholic Church …  I’m agnostic really, but I was brought up with cultural Christian values.”

She also said, “I’m not really left-leaning on anything.”

In May, the prime minister’s sister, journalist Rachel Johnson, interviewed Badenoch on her “Difficult Women” podcast where she was described as having a “fearsome reputation as a woman of color who takes a machete to the narrative of victimhood" based on one's gender, color or class. Badenoch, who was already being talked about as a future prime minister, discussed the issue of racism from the perspective of growing up in Nigeria and why she's fighting back against wokeism and movements that seek to dismantle society.  

In March, Badenoch joined London church leaders in a demonstration at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London to express support for the Ukrainian people and the role the Christian church can play in welcoming Ukrainians who were arriving in the U.K. at the time.

“Since the conflict began, people in this country have been in awe of the determination and courage Ukrainians have shown,” she said, according to a government press release. “It has sparked a wave of support across the U.K. with people up and down the country making donations to help the humanitarian effort and attending vigils to show solidarity.”

She added, “As ever, the church and other faith communities have been at the heart of these humanitarian efforts, and I stand together with faith leaders in calling for peace and offering our full support.”

The field of Conservatives vying to be selected as the next prime minister is crowded, with former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who also previously served as home secretary, chancellor and other government departments being among the long list of names entering the race.

By 5 p.m. local time on Monday the 1922 Committee will release a timeline for ministers in the Tory Party to vote on who will be the next prime minister. It's expected that the U.K. will have a new prime minister by early September, ahead of the first Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament. 

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