Who is the new International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt?

Posted On: 
9th November 2017

After Priti Patel was forced to step aside for spending her family holiday meeting Israeli politicians, Theresa May has once again been forced to tinker with her top team.

Penny Mordaunt
Credit: 
PA Images

Just a week after her decision to replace Michael Fallon with Gavin Williamson was met with near-universal derision by Tory MPs, the Prime Minister has gone for a safer option with Penny Mordaunt.

But what do we know about the new Secretary of State for International Development?

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Penelope Mary Mordaunt was first elected as the MP for her hometown of Portsmouth at the 2010 general election – gaining the seat from Labour’s Sarah McCarthy-Fry.

The naval reservist joined the bottom rung of the ministerial ladder as PPS to then Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, before becoming junior minister for local government in 2014.

The daughter of a paratrooper, Mordaunt, was perhaps an ideal fit for the job of Minister of State for the Armed Forces, which she took up following the 2015 general election.

After Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016, Mordaunt became Minister of State for Disabled People, a post she held until her elevation to the Cabinet earlier today.

WHO IS SHE?

Born in 1973, Penny Mordaunt was the first member of her family to go to university - reading philosophy at Reading, where she was president of the student union.

Her CV includes a spell as assistant to a local magician, a period when she was, by her own admission regularly “sawn in half and chopped to bits”.

Mordaunt also worked in hospitals and orphanages in Romania after the 1989 revolution, an experience she cites as having a major impact on her political views.

After a number of lobbying jobs, she also worked for George W Bush as head of foreign press during the 2000 presidential election, and worked on his re-election campaign in 2004.

ON BREXIT

An avowed Leaver, Mordaunt sparked a furious response from her then boss, David Cameron, when she claimed - wrongly - that Britain would be powerless to stop Turkey joining the EU.

The gaffe came just a month before the crunch vote, and the increasingly-rattled Prime Minister hit back: "She is absolutely wrong. Let me be clear, Britain and every other country in the EU has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact."

LEADSOM FOR LEADER

When Andrea Leadsom was laying out her credentials for Tory leader following Cameron's resignation, Mordaunt was among her key supporters.

As Leadsom battled it out with Theresa May and Michael Gove, Mordaunt said: "Andrea is the strongest person on the economy ... and she’s a tremendous social reformer. I think the membership would like a run-off between the two ladies.”

She even took time to join Tim Loughton's enthusiastic attempt to spread the message in the infamous "Leadsom for leader" march on Parliament.

INTERESTS

Perhaps Mordaunt's first major rise to prominence came through her participation in the ITV celebrity diving show Splash! in 2014.

Despite training hard “outside working hours”, and attempting a backward dive, her subsequent belly flop during the competition saw her eliminated.

She did however divide her £10,000 fee between the renovation of Portsmouth’s Hilsea Lido and Armed Forces charities.

Mordaunt also entered Army vehicle search dog Carla in the Westminster Dog of the Year contest in October 2015, and came second. 

She is a keen painter and a member of the British Astronomical Society, and lives in Portsmouth with her classical singer husband, their Labrador and eight cats.

Watch her Slash! attempt below: