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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How decades of networking brought Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt into the reach of power

Two days before a drunken Conservative MP allegedly attacked two men at an exclusive members’ club – a scandal that would soon shock Prime Minister Boris Johnson – Penny Mordant was in the same place, more traditional ways. Was networking.

Mordant, the trade minister in Johnson’s government, was at the historic Carlton Club in central London on June 27, giving an after-dinner speech and entertaining Tories at a £95-a-head ($112) dinner.

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The former defense secretary, 49, has long been known as the rubber chicken circuit, social events for party members and activists – often elderly, often men – who elect conservative leaders.

It’s a grinding ground tour, which ensured she was able to take advantage quickly when Johnson fell on her sword, resigning on July 7 amid a flurry of scandal.

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

Before the second and decisive week of Westminster voting, after which only two candidates go forward for a vote among party members, Mordant faces the challenge of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and seeks to progress in the popularity contest between those in the party. whom she is dating. years.

His early success has ensured a swift response from rivals. They point to his lack of cabinet level support and call him inexperienced. The MPs’ allegations of speaking privately also include that Mordent is a part-timer with no clear vision of how to run the country. On Thursday, former Brexit secretary David Frost said Mordant showed a lack of commitment as his deputy, and urged Johnson to fire him.

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

Yet Mordaunt’s run on Downing Street is a campaign built over more than 20 years as an activist.

Networking has helped Mordant become quietly popular with members, one supporter said, in contrast to his career with the rapid rise of the multi-millionaire craze and the more complicated past of Truss, who was once a Liberal Democrat.

A former colleague at the Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters at the turn of the century observed that Mordaunt had followed

“The Theresa May playbook, like the former prime minister, is blanking out behind-the-scenes support over time, including the Women2Win networking group, and waiting for the right time to stand up to the leadership.

At his official launch event last Wednesday in a packed room at a Westminster restaurant, Mordent’s pitch focused on patriotism, higher defense spending and tax cuts on gasoline. He named former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – the heroine who fancied the Tories – within the first two minutes.

Patriotism can be a difficult concept for British politicians to articulate. Mordaunt “can remember exactly where her flow comes from. In 1982, at the age of nine, she stood on the Hot Walls, the site of a historic military fort in the southern English city of Portsmouth, to a Royal Navy taskforce on the Falkland Islands. The group was watching as they set to capture.

“Looking at it, and Thatcher’s resolve at the time — well, I knew my country stood up to the threats,” she said at its launch.

The momentum picked up that afternoon when a YouGov poll put him ahead among the party members. Then, in the first round of voting, Mordant broke through, finishing second behind Sunak and pushing Truss to third.

At a grand “Best of British Party” held later that day, an MP aide said Sunak had a strategic vision, but that his long-term efforts were focused on Westminster. In contrast, outside cabinet Mordaunt spent time wooing Tories across the country. Local associations advise their MPs to choose Mordant,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At the party held in the garden of Westminster Abbey, Mordant and supporters were excited about the day, highlighting the social media reaction to his speech and encouraging YouGov polls. A Royal Air Force brass band played the tunes of the show, Paddington Bear and Peter Rabbit mingled around, while the cast as Victorian strongmen formed human pyramids. The guests were served fish and chips in cones and English sparkling wine.

The party was organized by Chris Lewis, a longtime collaborator of Mordent, who co-wrote a book with him earlier this year. In their post-Brexit vision for the nation, the pair wrote that faith – a major focus of Friday night’s debate – has an “excellent British quality”.

The Tories, who support Mordont, may have to obey him. So far, it has outlined a broad vision of a small-state, low-tax country.

His team knows it has to beat Truss to make it to the last two. The allies have vowed to fight a clean campaign, but may need to give more details about tax cuts, or toughen their position on Europe, to win more votes.

Born in Torquay, Devon, Mordaunt’s mother died of breast cancer at age 15; Her father was also diagnosed with cancer during her teen years and she became a magician’s assistant to help support the family. His early political career saw him do mordant work for the Tory Party and for George W. Bush’s successful US presidential campaigns.

A Royal Navy reservist who is dyslexic, she was elected to parliament in 2005 and entered government in 2014. She became the first woman to serve as Minister of Armed Forces, entered cabinet in 2017 as Secretary for International Development and was promoted to Secretary of Defense in May. In 2019 Johnson fired months later after backing his rival in the leadership campaign. He has since had time to work in the party network, a colleague said.

Mordant has built much of its military ties and the Conservative manifesto commitment to spending 2 percent of GDP on defense – the NATO target – and raising it to 0.5 percent above inflation every year. He is also an Atlanticist in favor of stronger ties with the US.
An aide portrayed Mordant as a sort of moderately liberal Brexiteer who doesn’t easily fit into any specific Tory tribe. However, he underestimated the comparison with outgoing leader Johnson, who is also hard to classify. While Mordent is funny, the MP said, the party has had a lot of Johnson’s kind of fun.

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

A year ago he gave a parliamentary speech on poultry welfare to settle a condition with Navy comrades. He also attracted cross-party laughter, highlighting the inadequacy of women’s military training. “I realized that lectures and practical demonstrations about penis and testicle care in the field failed to understand that some of us were issued with the wrong kit,” she said.

Mordant may still travel on similar ground, with rivals in the leadership accusing him of inconsistency over transgender rights. In Friday’s debate, Badenoch sought to portray Mordant as an advocate of gender self-id while in government. Mordant denied this.

“I am a woman, I am a biological woman in every cell of my body,” she said. One man who made the transition to legal is “not like me,” she said. This doubled down on a claim she made at the launch of her campaign, which led to LGBTQ+ groups complaining that Mordant was backtracking from an earlier commitment to trans rights to increase support in the Tory party.

Her position is not good enough for party critics, defeated leadership rival Suella Braverman citing the issue while supporting the truce (Braverman also cited ambiguity on tax cuts). Tory activists worry privately that Mordent is hiding policy beliefs that won’t be clear until she enters No. 10.

So far, Mordant’s headline policy is a pledge to cut VAT on fuel by 50 percent to help ease the cost of living, a plan that was criticized by Sunak on Friday for no cost, but She hasn’t gone to the races like the others. To offer tax deduction.

She has promised every family a childcare budget with the option to spend it, and says her key fiscal rule is that debt as a percentage of GDP will drop over time.

Her campaign lacks cabinet support, but she has the support of lawmakers such as Andrea Leadsom and David Davis and centrists such as Carolyn Knox and Caroline Dinez.

Campaign manager Ladsom is briefing reporters on Mordent’s economic plan, suggesting she could become chancellor if she wins. Mordent’s “foot soldiers” also include MPs from the 2019 Seven, including some Brexit-supporting “Red Wall” seats.

A member of Mordent’s team working with activists said they were overwhelmed with offers of support and were instructing supporters to urge lawmakers to support them in the final two.

An aide to Mordant said the candidate could be something for everyone, and lawmakers could project their political views on him.

While this may have been an advantage, another friend expressed fear: that Mordaunt has not surrounded himself with political peaks, people are willing to get their hands dirty in order to have him elected. She’s great, the friend complained.

Read more: Rishi Sunak leads race to become UK PM after latest vote

World Nation News Desk
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