Penny mordaunt

After Sunak, who?

Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens, the author Fay Weldon once declared.  This observation about life’s tendency to deliver sudden squalls between periods of apparent calm could certainly be applied to the leadership of the Conservative party.  It is only a year ago that Kemi Badenoch rather brilliantly used the leadership contest that followed the downfall of Boris Johnson to force her way into the top rank of Conservative politicians after having been overlooked during various Johnsonite Cabinet reshuffles. Now her merits are widely acknowledged and she is firm favourite at the bookies to become the next leader of the party. Of course, nothing is happening on

The power of Penny Mordaunt

The police have said sorry for arresting anti-monarchy protestors under the wrong legal rubric on Coronation Day, but is that really a lead news story, as it was on Tuesday’s Today programme? If the police had failed to contain the mini-mob and a couple of them had, as they intended, obstructed the processional route, there would have been a huge and justified outcry. Coverage like that of Today makes no allowance for the fact that these protestors are not ordinary citizens. Protest is their full-time job, as is making a monkey of the law. Every week, I receive notice in my inbox of protests by this coalition of organisations which

Penny reign: how Mordaunt could be kingmaker

Tory MPs will likely have three candidates to vote for in Monday’s leadership race: Boris Johnson, Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak. If Johnson runs, gets to the final two and it goes to the Tory membership, then he’s probably be back in No. 10 within days. Polls of Tory members put Boris ahead by a three-to-two margin in a multi-candidate scenario. To stop Johnson getting in the final two, Tory MPs would need to cast their votes tactically to engineer a Sunak-Mordaunt playoff amongst members, in which Sunak would likely win. Why would she be Sunak’s lobby fodder? But all this assumes Penny Mordaunt plays ball. Why would she be Sunak’s

The political cunning of Elizabeth II: BBC1’s The Longest Reign – The Queen and Her People reviewed

In all the tributes to Her late Majesty’s constancy, dignity, wisdom and devotion to duty, not enough has been said about her political cunning. But BBC1’s The Longest Reign: The Queen and Her People made a compelling case that Elizabeth II knew just how to tilt the balance. When she toured the new towns of the 1950s (see image), waving at the crowds with their little Union Flags and taking tea with the young families on the just-built housing estates, she was giving her wordless blessing to the welfare state. When she wanted to bolster the No side in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, her intervention – commenting to a

Penny hits back at her critics

It’s been a bruising week for Penny Mordaunt. Six days ago she was the favourite to be Prime Minister; now she’s out of the running after a series of searing criticisms from colleagues and the press. A repeated line of attack she faced was the suggestion that she wasn’t entirely across her brief, with Lord Frost claiming he had to request Mordaunt be transferred off the Brexit negotiation One of those making such a criticism was Anne Marie Trevelyan, the Secretary of State for International Trade. She said of Mordaunt, her departmental junior, that: ‘there have been a number of times when she hasn’t been available, which would have been

Isabel Hardman

Last ones standing: the leadership finalists on taxes, net zero and freedom of speech

After the last televised leadership debate was cancelled when Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak pulled out, we asked the remaining three candidates if they would come on SpectatorTV to face questions before Tory MPs’  final vote. (Since going to press the contenders will have been whittled down to two.) This is an edited transcript of their answers. Do you propose tax cuts? If so, how would you pay for them? PENNY MORDAUNT: On the current trajectory Rishi’s set us on, we are going to be one of the most uncompetitive nations in the OECD and that cannot be allowed to happen. We have to be able to compete. So there

Rod Liddle

The high price of failure

I was listening to a rich bastard on the radio explaining why he was feeling disinclined to give any more of his money to the Conservative party. The term ‘rich bastard’ is the one which I was habituated to use when I was a member of the Labour party and which I have disinterred now to give my opening sentence a little more punch. It was axiomatic to us that anyone with sufficient dosh to consider squandering a few hundred thou on a political party must be a bastard and was both immoral and undeserving of his wealth. Wealth in any shape or form appalled us in an almost Freudian

Charles Moore

Who can read Penny Mordaunt?

Whitehall is telling ministers that this is a ‘caretaker’ government and so, by convention, cannot take decisions. This is not correct. A caretaker government is one in which an acting prime minister is in charge following a resignation. But Boris has not resigned: he has merely said that he will resign once his party has chosen a new leader. Until then, he remains Prime Minister. Obviously it would be wrong for him to introduce policy changes which would commit his successor, but officials should not twist convention to prevent ministers from using their usual discretionary powers in individual cases. This bogus invocation of propriety is related, I think, to the

Sunak and Truss make final two – as it happened

Britain’s next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. Refresh this page for the latest developments. 4.45 p.m. – Truss vs Sunak will be a philosophical war Kate Andrews writes… The Tory grassroots have got themselves a real economic debate this summer: Rishi Sunak’s ‘Thatcherite’ economic philosophy vs Liz Truss’s ‘Reaganite’ plans to boost growth. Both will have questions to answer. While Sunak’s line that ‘nothing comes for free’ is bound to resonate with Tory members, the tax burden has risen to a 72-year-high under his watch, as well as the introduction of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that is very hard to explain


Mordaunt: Truss or Sunak will ‘murder’ us

Throughout the leadership race, Penny Mordaunt has sought to portray herself as the cleanest candidate of them all. She has bemoaned the ‘toxic politics’ and ‘smears’ of others and bewailed how ‘this contest is in danger of slipping into something else’. She, by contrast, has pledged to run a ‘truly clean campaign’ and ‘committed to a clean start for our party’ – away from all from the attacks, lies and backstabbing of the past. Mordaunt even told Steerpike’s colleague Isabel Hardman on The Spectator podcast just yesterday that: I have conducted my campaign in a way that I think is needed and has been the right thing to do. Now


Penny attacks Truss over China

Dividing lines and clear blue water –  in any election it’s crucial for candidates to find and exploits the distinctions between themselves and their rivals. Could China perhaps be one? It was the subject which Liz Truss chose to quiz Rishi Sunak about on Sunday and is seen by allies of the former as a weakness for the latter. The Foreign Secretary is keen to appear more hawkish than her rival; under Sunak’s Chancellorship the Treasury tried to restart multiple high-level financial dialogues with Beijing. And it’s not just Truss pushing this line, for Penny Mordaunt has now decided to jump on board the China train. She declared last night

The latest Tory leadership debate was a grim spectacle

The eyes had it, in last night’s leadership debate. Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak took turns directing to the camera a puppy-eyed gaze. Tom Tugendhat blinked manfully, as if overcome from time to time with a sense of his humble desire to serve. Kemi Badenoch blinked, too – but more in the way of someone regretting the decision to switch her specs out for contact lenses. And if Liz Truss – an apprentice of Mrs Thatcher’s gimlet-eyed stare – blinked at all, I confess I didn’t notice it. I was distracted by the fact that she seemed to have four eyebrows rather than the usual human ration of two. I

The verdict: the second Tory leadership debate

‘If you’re still watching this debate, well done,’ said Mordaunt, bizarrely, in her closing statement. ‘I wish tonight had been less about us and more about you.’ She obviously scripted that comment before she had any idea how the evening was going to pan out and her own contributions were certainly forgettable. But the others made for an interesting night. Tom Tugendhat quite rightly said the whole evening’s discussion – tax, defence etc. – was about the country. ‘We need to restore confidence in our government and in ourselves,’ he said. I’m not sure Britain needs its self-confidence restored: it’s the Tories who are having a collective breakdown. Rishi Sunak

Stephen Daisley

Penny Mordaunt’s worst trait

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.

Sunday shows round-up: Penny under the spotlight

Penny Mordaunt – I’m being smeared over self-ID claims No Conservative party leadership race is ever without drama. With the first TV debate now under their belt, the five candidates are fending off scrutiny not just from the opposition and the media, but from each other. One of the biggest rifts from Friday’s debate was when Penny Mordaunt denied that she had ever been in favour of self-identification for transgender people while she was equalities minister. Her rivals, Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss, suggested this was not true, and leaked documents reported in the Sunday Times today appear to back this up. Speaking to the BBC’s Sophie Raworth, Mordaunt sought to

Penny drops, Kemi soars in Tory activist poll

While Tom Tugendhat won the public opinion poll after last night’s debate, this is a race that will be decided by Tory members – and they seem to have a new winner (for now at least). A new ConservativeHome poll has seen Penny Mordaunt knocked off the top spot by Kemi Badenoch – who now has a double-digit lead. In a rapidly-moving contest, it’s quite significant. ‘Mordaunt’s ship is becalmed,’ says Paul Goodman in the ConHome analysis. She led Badenoch by 46 per cent to 40 per cent in an either/or poll last Tuesday. But in this different poll (with all five candidates) she’s on just 18 per cent, with Liz


Tories parade their military attire

As the reputation of Westminster sinks ever lower and our elected masters seem able to do even less, candidates for political office seek outside areas by which they can bolster their credentials. Once it might have been the Church: now it’s often business. But one evergreen way of commanding instant respect in Tory circles is a connection, however tenuous, with the Armed Forces. Unsurprisingly therefore, those leadership candidates with such a connection have been doing their upmost to mention their service at every available opportunity. Take Tom Tugendhat, the man who’s quipped that his ‘biggest weakness’ is ‘talking about the army too much.’ He proudly sported the tie of his

Penny Mordaunt is more like Boris than you think

As the Tory leadership candidates prepare for tonight’s debate on Channel 4, I find my mind turning back to the Cleggmania that followed Britain’s first televised election debate. As I say in the Times today, Penny Mordaunt’s current momentum feels a bit like things did in 2010: a previously little known politician is shooting to prominence. Only 16 per cent of Tory voters can recognise Mordaunt but she is now in with a serious shot of becoming PM. Mordaunt’s rise is a product of the unique circumstances in today’s Conservative party. She is managing to have her cake and eat it. She has served in the cabinet, but not Boris Johnson’s cabinet. She made clear for

What is Penny Mordaunt up to?

Does Penny Mordaunt know what she’s getting herself into? One of her most striking promises is to give MPs something called ‘social capital pots’: cash to spend in their constituencies. They are part of her attempt to soothe colleagues by describing them as ‘people who want to serve’ – and to weaken the power of the Treasury. ‘I want to give you more agency to serve your community,’ she said. While these pots sound unremarkable, Mordaunt would be significantly changing what an MP actually does This is a fascinating idea, and not just because it flatters MPs’ egos. It’s more than the ‘pork barrel politics’ some critics have alleged of the idea,

Patrick O'Flynn

The triumph of Tory mediocrity

Every loser wins, once the dream begins. So sang the EastEnders actor Nick Berry in a godawful mid-1980s pop song that attempted to cash in on his brief spell as a national heartthrob. In the first round of the Conservative leadership election, it would be more accurate to say that every winner loses, especially in respect of ante-post favourite Rishi Sunak. Sunak topped the poll with 88 votes from fellow MPs – less than 25 per cent of the Tory party. For a man who was chancellor until a week ago and whose best chance of succeeding Boris Johnson lies in assembling an overwhelming endorsement from the Conservative parliamentary party, it