In 2012, Badenoch unsuccessfully contested a seat on the London Assembly, but was appointed to the body after Victoria Borwick resigned in 2015. A supporter of Brexit in the 2016 referendum, Badenoch was elected to the House of Commons in 2017.
After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Badenoch was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families. In the February 2020 reshuffle, she was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities. In September 2021, she was promoted to Minister of State for Equalities and appointed Minister of State for Local Government, Faith and Communities. In July 2022, Badenoch resigned from the government and stood to replace Johnson in the 2022 Conservative Party leadership election. Badenoch came in fourth place on the first ballot in a field of eight candidates but was eliminated from the leadership contest on 19 July 2022, after receiving the lowest number of votes from Conservative MPs.
Considered to be on the political right of the Conservative Party, Badenoch has criticised “critical race theory” (CRT) and has been characterized as a social conservative and ‘anti-woke’ politician. As Minister of State for Equalities, Badenoch opposed plans by the Financial Conduct Authority to allow trans employees to self-identify in the workplace, and opposes gender neutral bathrooms in public buildings.
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