Right-wingers appear not to be terribly keen on Penny Mordaunt. Toby Young read her book Greater: Britain After the Storm and didn’t like what he found. Nor did Will Lloyd, over at UnHerd, who wrote that: ‘Mordaunt tacks to the centre, but ends up on the managerial left. What she writes sounds like it was dredged from a particularly poor speech given at Davos five years ago.’ Sam Ashworth-Hayes even goes so far as to suggest she would be better suited to leading the Labour party. Here we must draw the line. The Labour party is more than capable of anointing its own ideologically unsuited leaders, thank you very much.
To her conservative critics, Mordaunt is not just liberal: she’s alarmingly woke. They despair that a sizeable section of the rank-and-file seems to love her. (Whether it actually loves her or reckons a female Heracles is needed to clean out the Johnsonian stables is another matter.) A cursory glimpse through Mordaunt’s record of pronouncements and positions would suggest these objections are more than swivel-eyed demands for ideological purity. Her views do seem out of step with the Tory mainstream, though they are far from anywhere near coherent enough for a philosophy. She is the sort of woolly, issue-centric, vaguely progressive Tory first heralded by the Cameron-Osborne project.
The case against Mordaunt isn’t that she’s a raging lefty but that a) she has held certain progressive views that should trouble left and right alike, and b) she was willing to toss them overboard at her earliest convenience. One of the most break-neck – some would say brass-neck – U-turns in recent political history was a Twitter thread on gender ideology that Mordaunt posted at the outset of her leadership campaign. It represented not so much a disavowal of her past statements but a pretence that they never happened.