How decades of networking brought Penny Mordaunt within reach of power – Yahoo Movies UK | Region & Cash

(Bloomberg) —

Most read by Bloomberg

Ten days before Boris Johnson’s resignation sparked a bitter context for his successor, Penny Mordaunt was doing what she’s been doing for decades: investing hours building support among Conservative Party members and donors.

On June 27, the venue was the historic Carlton Club in central London and an after-dinner speech at a £95 a head (US$112) dinner. Two days later, the drunken behavior of another Tory MP at the same venue set in motion the chain of events that would lead to Johnson’s ouster and suddenly Mordaunt’s chance opened up.

The former defense secretary, 49, has long been a regular participant in the so-called Rubber Chicken Circuit, social events for party members and activists – often older, often male – who elect conservative leaders.

It’s a crunching grassroots tour that ensured she quickly took advantage as Johnson fell on his sword and resigned on July 7 amid a flurry of scandals.

After two rounds of voting by Conservative MPs in the bid to become the party leader and Britain’s next prime minister, Mordaunt – little known outside Tory circles – is in second place, behind only former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Ahead of a second and crucial week of voting in Westminster, after which only two candidates get to the vote among party members, Mordaunt tries to fend off a challenge from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and moves on to a popularity contest among people she has courted for years.

Their early success prompted a quick backlash from rivals. They point to their lack of support at Cabinet level and brand them as inexperienced. Allegations from MPs speaking in private include that Mordaunt is a part-time worker and has no clear vision of how the country should be run. On Thursday, former Brexit secretary David Frost said Mordaunt had shown a lack of commitment as his deputy and urged Johnson to fire her.

The attacks continued in Friday night’s televised debate, with rivals criticizing her tax and spending proposals and her position on transgender rights. She later defended herself in an interview with the Telegraph.

But Mordaunt’s Downing Street run is a campaign that builds on more than 20 years as an activist.

Networking has helped Mordaunt become quietly popular with members, said a supporter, contrasting her career with the rapid rise of multi-millionaire Sunak and the more complicated past of Truss, who was once a Liberal Democrat.

A former colleague at turn-of-the-century Conservative Party campaign headquarters noted that Mordaunt had followed the “Theresa May playbook” and over time rallied behind-the-scenes support as the former Prime Minister did, including at the networking group Women2Win, and waited for the right moment to stand for leadership.

At their official launch event last Wednesday in a crowded, muggy back room of a Westminster restaurant, Mordaunt’s presentation focused on patriotism, high defense spending and a tax cut on petrol. She checked the name of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – a heroine of the staunch Tories – within the first two minutes.

Patriotism can be a difficult concept for British politicians to articulate. Mordaunt “can remember” exactly where hers flows from. In 1982, at the age of nine, she stood at the Hot Walls, the site of a historic military fort in the southern English town of Portsmouth, and watched as a Royal Navy task force set sail to retake the Falkland Islands.

“As a witness of that and of Thatcher’s determination at the time – well, I knew my country stood up to bullies,” she said at her launch.

Momentum picked up that afternoon as a YouGov poll ranked her at the top among party members. Then, in the first round of voting, Mordaunt broke through, finishing second behind Sunak and knocking Truss into third place.

At a lavish Best of British party later that day, a Parliament ally said that while Sunak had a strategic approach, his long-term efforts were focused on Westminster. By contrast, Mordaunt spent time outside of Cabinet courting Tories nationwide. Local associations advised their MPs to select Mordaunt, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the party, held in the garden of Westminster Abbey, Mordaunt and supporters rejoiced in the day, highlighting the social media response to her speech and the encouraging YouGov poll. A Royal Air Force brass band played show tunes, Paddington Bear and Peter Rabbit walked around while performers styled as Victorian strongmen formed human pyramids. The guests were served fish and chips in croissants and English sparkling wine.

The party was organized by Chris Lewis, a longtime Mordaunt collaborator who co-wrote a book with her earlier this year. In their post-Brexit vision for the nation, the pair wrote that trust – a key focus of Friday night’s debate – is a “transcendent” British quality.

Tories who support Mordaunt may need to take her word for it. So far she has only outlined an overarching vision of a small, low-tax country.

Her team knows she has to beat Truss to finish in the last two. Aides have vowed to run a clean campaign but may need to reveal more details about tax cuts or harden their stance on Europe to win more votes.

Truss sends signal to Tory Right in race for UK leadership

Mordaunt’s mother was born in Torquay, Devon and died of breast cancer when she was 15. Her father was also diagnosed with cancer in her teens and became a magician’s assistant to support the family. In her early political life, her mordaunt worked for the Tory party and on both of George W. Bush’s successful US presidential campaigns.

As a dyslexic reservist in the Royal Navy, she was elected to Parliament in 2005 and entered government in 2014. She was the first woman to serve as Secretary of Defense, joined the Cabinet as Secretary for International Development in 2017 and was promoted to Secretary of Defense in May 2019. She was then fired by Johnson months later after supporting his rival in the leadership campaign would have. Since then she has had time to work in the party network, said an employee.

Mordaunt has made much of her military connections and pledges to stick to the Conservative Manifesto’s commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defense – the NATO target – and increasing it by 0.5% over inflation each year. She is also an Atlanticist who advocates strong ties with the US.

One Ally portrayed Mordaunt as a sort of nuanced liberal Brexiteer who doesn’t easily fit into one of the typical Tory tribes. However, they downplayed comparisons to Johnson, the outgoing leader, who is also difficult to pin down. While Mordaunt is fun, the MP said, the party has had too much of Johnson’s brand of fun.

Mordaunt’s idea of ​​fun seems to involve not taking yourself too seriously. In 2014, she appeared on the reality TV show Splash! on a celebrity dive show to raise funds for her constituency.

A year earlier she gave a parliamentary speech on poultry welfare, laced with innuendos, to settle a bet with naval comrades. She also drew bipartisan laughs by highlighting the inadequacy of women’s military training. “I felt that the on-site lecture and hands-on demonstration of caring for the penis and testicles failed to recognize that some of us who attended were given the wrong kit,” she said.

Mordaunt may yet stumble on similar grounds, with leadership rivals accusing her of inconsistency when it comes to transgender rights. In Friday’s debate, Badenoch attempted to portray Mordaunt as a proponent of gender self-identification during his reign. Mordaunt denied that.

“I’m a woman, I’m a biological woman in every cell of my body,” she said. A man who switched legally is “not the same as me,” she added. This doubled down on a claim made at the launch of her campaign, prompting LGBTQ+ groups to complain that Mordaunt was backing away from a previous commitment to trans rights to bolster support in the Tory party .

Her position does not sit well with party critics, as defeated rival Suella Braverman cited the issue when backing Truss (Braverman also cited ambiguity over tax cuts). The controversy dogged her into the weekend, as the Sunday Times reported on government documents signaling that Mordaunt had backed self-identification in a political review while she was serving as equality secretary. “A series of slanders” are afoot in the newspapers, Mordaunt told the BBC on Sunday when asked about the Times report. “We all know what’s going on. That’s the kind of toxic politics that people want to get away from,” she said. of Life Crisis, a plan Sunak criticized on Friday for being cost-neutral, but she hasn’t gone as far as others in the race for tax cuts.

She has promised to give every family a childcare budget, with a choice of how to spend it, and says her main budgetary rule is that debt as a percentage of gross domestic product will fall over time.

Her campaign lacks cabinet support, but is backed by MPs like Andrea Leadsom and David Davis from the right, and centrists like Caroline Nokes and Caroline Dinenage. Campaign manager Leadsom has briefed journalists on Mordaunt’s economic plan and suggested that if she wins she could become Chancellor. Mordaunt’s “foot soldiers” also include MPs from the 2019 recording, including some in Brexit-backed “Red Wall” seats.

A member of Mordaunt’s team who worked with activists said they had been overwhelmed by offers of support and had directed supporters to urge MPs to back them in the last two.

A Mordaunt ally said the candidate could be for everyone and MPs could project their own political views onto her.

While that could be an advantage, another friend voiced a concern: Mordaunt hasn’t surrounded himself with political thugs, people are willing to get their hands dirty to vote for her. She’s too nice, the friend complained.

(quote from BBC interview added to Sunday Times report)

Most Read by Bloomberg Businessweek

©2022 Bloomberg LP

Leave a Comment