Penny Mordaunt has declared her intention to stand in the Tory leadership race. The Commons leader was among the early front-runners tipped to become the next Prime Minister following Liz Truss’s resignation.
Truss resigned as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday after just 44 days in office, and her replacement is expected to be in place by the end of next week.
Mordaunt stood in the previous leadership race, finishing third behind Rishi Sunak and Truss, and is expected to have the public support of several MPs should she opt to run for a second time.
What are the odds of Penny Mordaunt being the next Prime Minister?
An ally of Mordaunt said the Cabinet minister had previously said she was not currently working on a leadership bid, but she is “taking soundings” from colleagues on the prospect of her standing for the top job.
A source close to the Mordaunt told the PA news agency: “It’s a testament to Penny’s campaign over the summer how many colleagues have already come out asking her to stand. At the moment there isn’t a campaign but Penny has always been the candidate that can unite the party, deliver and beat Labour.
“At the moment she’s been taking soundings from her colleagues and has been busy speaking to as many as she can.”
However on Friday she announced her intention to stand saying: “I’ve been encouraged by support from colleagues who want a fresh start, a united party and leadership in the national interest. I’m running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister - to unite our country, deliver our pledges and win the next GE.”
The announcement came after she held talks with Jeremy Hunt, in which she assured him he could stay on as Chancellor if she won.
Sources close to Ms Mordaunt said she had made clear that she would proceed with his budget plan to get the public finances back on track, due to be announced on 31 October.
Former cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom has backed Mordaunt to be the new Tory leader, citing her “compassion” and “determination”.
Quoting a post from Ms Mordaunt announcing her bid, Leadsom tweeted: “Delighted by this!
“Penny has the experience, the compassion and the determination to lead our country to a bright future!”
She added the hashtag #PM4PM.
There has also been no declaration yet from Sunak, but the former Chancellor already has the backing of several Tories including ministers Robert Jenrick and Claire Coutinho and backbenchers Guy Opperman, Siobhan Baillie, Angela Richardson and Robin Walker.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also being urged by allies to run just six weeks after he left No 10 for the final time, forced out by his own MPs after one scandal too many.
Johnson – who has not ruled himself in or out of the race – already has the support of Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who tweeted a graphic saying “I’m Backing Boris” alongside the hashtag #BORISorBUST.
Mordaunt pledged to “keep calm and carry on” and encouraged others to do the same in the wake of Truss’s resignation on Thursday.
A former trade minister, with Cabinet experience in the defence and international development briefs, she ran to replace Boris Johnson with the campaign name PM 4 PM. In that campaign, Mordaunt, a Royal Navy Reservist, said leadership “needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship”.
She came third in the race, narrowly missing out on a place in the head-to-head phase, and went on to back Truss over Sunak. As of 4.30pm on Thursday, odds on Mordaunt on becoming the next party leader were 5/2 with William Hill.
Under the rules set out by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, and party chairman Sir Jake Berry, nominations will close at 2pm on Monday (24 October). A minimum of 100 supporters is needed to get through to the next round, meaning a maximum of three spots are up for grabs.
The first ballot of MPs will then be held between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Monday – if there are three candidates with the required number of nominations the loser will be eliminated.
Once there are two candidates remaining, an indicative vote will be held so that the party membership know which is the preferred option among MPs. Members will be able to take part in an online vote to choose their next leader with the contest due to conclude by 28 October. The rules appear designed to encourage the candidate who finishes second to stand aside for the winner, ensuring the new leader has the support of the majority.
Who is Penny Mordaunt?
Mourdant is a Conservative politician who has served as the MP for Portsmouth North since 2010. She currently serves as Leader of the House of Commons. Prior to that she served as Minister of State for Trade Policy and in the Home Office as the Postmaster General, a ministerial position, and previously served in PM Theresa May’s Cabinet as International Development Secretary from 2017 to 2019, and Defence Secretary in 2019.
Mordaunt was raised with her twin brother and younger brother by their former paratrooper father and their mother in Torquay, Devon. She attended Oaklands Roman Catholic School Academy in Waterlooville, before taking a gap year to volunteer in orphanages in Romania. It is this experience that encouraged her to enter politics.
The minister read Philosophy at the University of Reading, graduating in 1995, and was the first member of her family to attend university. Following her graduation, she served as Head of Youth for the Conservative Party under John Major, before working for two years as Head of Broadcasting for party leader William Hague.
Before her move into politics, she was a magician’s assistant while in college before a career in public relations. She first stood as an MP in the 2005 general election, losing out to a Labour candidate. However, she stood again in 2010 and won with a 7,289 (8.6 per cent) vote majority.
Mordaunt was also a key figure in the Leave campaign in 2016 and throughout the Brexit negotiations she was the UK alternate co-chair of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee.
The Commons Leader is also well known for her appearance on reality TV show Splash!, which saw her compete in a diving competition against celebrities including Gemma Collins from The Only Way Is Essex in 2014, and was widely ridiculed for it.
Was she a favourite to replace Boris Johnson as PM?
Mordaunt had been viewed as one of the frontrunners to enter No 10 and take over as Prime Minister after Johnson resigned. The Portsmouth North MP’s recent work has included leading efforts to secure economic pacts with American states and she is considered a strong speaker and on top of her brief in her Commons appearances.
The Cabinet minister said she regretted not running for PM previously, but became the bookmaker’s favourite in the previous leadership race. A Tory insider told iNews that Mordaunt had maintained a high profile with her policy work, which includes paving the way for trade deals with individual US states and acting as a go-between between the government and MPs during the Covid pandemic.
The source said: “She is denied any profile, partly because of No 10. “She hasn’t really done any interviews, she doesn’t really get any announcements. She’s done some really good stuff in government but it doesn’t really get any airtime. Yet despite that, she has massive traction in the party at the parliamentary and grassroots level.”