Penny Mordaunt: the outsider darling of the Tory grassroots


Set towards Gustav Holst’s hymn ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’, with union jacks and a deep-voiced narrator, the message of Penny Mordaunt’s marketing campaign launch video for the Conservative celebration management was pure patriotism.

While Mordaunt’s movie was derided on social media for its clichéd imagery, it appealed to the hearts of Tory members. One MP supporting her marketing campaign stated “never underestimate the power of patriotism in our party”.

As the one main management contender not in Boris Johnson’s final cupboard, the junior commerce minister was initially seen as an out of doors wager to be the subsequent prime minister. But the 49-year-old has performed on her outsider standing to attraction to MPs and activists from totally different wings of the celebration.

Mordaunt’s hinterland is just not that of a typical Conservative. Born in Torquay, Devon, her mom died from breast most cancers when Mordaunt was 15; her father was additionally recognized with most cancers throughout her teenage years. She grew to become a magician’s assistant to assist assist the household.

She additionally signed up as a reservist within the Royal Navy, one thing she has made a lot of throughout her political profession.

After graduating from the University of Reading, she labored in public relations, together with as an aide to the Tory celebration throughout William Hague’s management and on each of George W Bush’s profitable US presidential campaigns.

Penny Mordaunt in Dominica with Prince Charles as worldwide growth Secretary in 2017 © Victoria Jones/PA

She was elected MP for Portsmouth North in 2010 and swiftly climbed the ministerial ladder: her first submit got here as a neighborhood authorities minister in 2014, adopted by armed forces minister and disabilities minister.

Mordaunt joined Theresa May’s cupboard in 2017 as worldwide growth secretary and was briefly defence secretary in May 2019. Although Johnson stored her in his authorities, she was demoted to the non-cabinet function of paymaster normal earlier than being moved to commerce minister final September.

She is likely one of the Tory celebration’s extra vibrant MPs. In 2014, she appeared on the fact TV present Splash!, the place celebrities study the artwork of diving. The identical 12 months, she revealed that she had delivered a parliamentary speech on poultry laced with lewd references, to the delight of MPs.

Unlike the opposite management contenders, she is just not attempting to attraction to an city voters. One ally stated: “Penny is very much a person of Middle England.”

Mordaunt appeals to a number of wings of the celebration: she performs on her assist for Brexit within the 2016 referendum — she was one of many Vote Leave marketing campaign’s voices — alongside together with her social liberalism and professed love of nation.

In the primary survey of the celebration’s grassroots because the contest to exchange Johnson started, the ConservativeDwelling web site on Tuesday put Mordaunt because the membership’s high decide, forward of different contenders with vital increased profiles.

RN reservist Sub Lt Penny Mordaunt in 2014
RN reservist Sub Lt Penny Mordaunt in 2014 © Alex Cave/Royal Navy

“Penny’s lot have been crafty but very successful in going around everyone else and picking off one or two people. She is going to do very well out of this race,” stated an MP from a rival management marketing campaign.

Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeDwelling, stated Mordaunt was widespread throughout the celebration as a result of “the grassroots like the naval cut of her jib”. He added, “she combines being a woman with a military persona. Penny has a direct manner and a suggestion she will listen to you — the combination is quite rare and it gives her a lot of political reach.”

Much of Mordaunt’s assist comes from the 2019 consumption of MPs, who see Johnson’s departure as an opportunity to make a break from the previous. “She would be a fresh start,” stated Duncan Baker, a backbencher. “She is very strong, has impeccable integrity and values.”

James Sunderland, additionally elected for the primary time in 2019, stated: “She is no-nonsense, she has no baggage, she’s full of integrity and has a vision for the future. She’s the candidate that Labour and the SNP would want to face least.”

The odds on her changing into the subsequent prime minister shortened considerably on Tuesday. According to bookmakers’ William Hill, her possibilities of successful the competition have risen from 7/2 to 2/1.

Her marketing campaign has picked up the second-largest variety of endorsements, with 26 MPs, a few of them high-profile figures, publicly supporting her. This places her forward of overseas secretary Liz Truss, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former cupboard minister Jeremy Hunt and overseas affairs choose committee chair Tom Tugendhat.

David Davis, the previous Brexit secretary and one-time Tory management contender who endorsed her on Tuesday, described her as “a woman of incredible integrity” and “high competence”, including she would mark a clear break with the scandals of the Johnson period.

A frame from Penny Mordaunt’s leadership bid video
Penny Mordaunt’s management bid video © Penny Mordaunt/YouTube

Davis added, “She’s fantastic in the House of Commons but most of all she’s got a vision for Britain, she’s a patriot and she knows what sort of Conservatism she wants to stand for. And she’s the person in the party most likely to beat Rishi Sunak, so it’s a formidable combination.”

Little is thought about how Mordaunt would govern if she gained the competition. In an article for the Telegraph newspaper, she pledged to chop taxes with a fiscal rule that debt as a share of GDP would fall over time. She has additionally stated gasoline obligation can be reduce and revenue tax thresholds for low- and middle-income earners can be raised.

In a swipe at Johnson, Mordaunt says she doesn’t need her management pitch to be about her. In her launch video, she said the Tory celebration “needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship”.

For some senior MPs, that is Mordaunt’s greatest disadvantage. One minister who has labored carefully together with her stated, “I worked with her for five years and still feel like I don’t know what she believes or what she thinks.”