Penny Mordaunt has been appointed international development secretary by Theresa May following Priti Patel’s resignation.
The reshuffle means the prime minister has maintained the delicate balance in her cabinet between Brexiteers and Remainers. Like Patel, Mordaunt campaigned strongly for a ‘Leave’ vote at the referendum.
The Portsmouth North MP is a former defence minister and work and pensions minister. She served for a time as an aid worker before entering parliament and is also a serving Royal Navy reservist.
Patel was forced to quit the Cabinet on Wednesday after she was discovered to have held a series of undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.
It is May’s second reshuffle in the space of one week. Last Thursday she replaced Sir Michael Fallon as defence secretary with Gavin Williamson.
During the referendum campaign Mordaunt clashed with Fallon, her then boss, when she argued the UK’s membership of the EU was putting the country’s security at risk.
Mordaunt also had a public row with David Cameron after she claimed the UK could not veto Turkey’s joining the EU - something the then prime minister said was not true.
She backed fellow Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom to be Tory leader after Cameron resigned.
Kate Osamor, Labour’s shadow development secretary, said Mordaunt “faces an immediate challenge of restoring integrity to British international development policy after the actions of Priti Patel”.
“That means she must unequivocally commit to the spirit, as well as the letter, of Britain’s pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on international development, and face down those in her party who want to merge DFID into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“Unlike Priti Patel, who too often used the department to prop up her personal networks and leadership ambitions, Mordaunt must also quickly commit to the central cause of the department: to help the world’s poorest.”
Mordaunt once famously delivered a speech on chickens purely so she could say the word “cock” in parliament. Mordaunt admitted she did it as a forfeit for a “misdemeanour” during Royal Navy training.
She also cased the Commons to descend into laughter with a high profile speech that managed to crowbar in the words “penis” and “testicles”.
In 2014 she took part in ITV’s celebrity diving show Splash!