NEWS
02/05/2019 09:53 BST

Penny Mordaunt: 9 Completely Irrelevant Things You Might Not Know About The New Defence Secretary

A magician's assistant? A not-so-champion diver? Here's a rundown.

Penny Mordaunt has a new job. 

The former international development secretary is now the UK’s first ever female defence secretary after Gavin Williamson had what was almost certainly the worst day of his career.

Williamson was sacked last night following an inquiry into a leak of information from last week’s National Security Council meeting.

But one man’s loss is a woman’s gain, such is the cutthroat world of Whitehall.

Here’s a brief primer on the new defence secretary.

PA Archive/PA Images
Penny Mordaunt, fond of the odd gag.

1) She Once Lost A Bet And Had To Say ‘Cock’ Six Times In The Commons

Mordaunt is a Royal Navy Reservist and has in the past fallen victim to some good old fashioned armed forces japery.

In 2014, she said: “During our mess dinner at the end of the course I was fined for a misdemeanour, and the fine was to say a particular word, the abbreviation of cockerel, several times during a speech on the floor of the House of Commons and mention all of the officer’s names present.”

And here is that speech – maintaining a straight face throughout but very nearly cracking at the mention of “cock-a-hoop” around the 2:36 mark.

She even won a Spectator Speech of the Year award for it but said she felt “a bit of a fraud” because “let’s face it, the reason I won this award is not because of the hours I put in or the carefully crafted speech, it’s because I referred to male genitalia during the course of it.”

2) Her Name Sounds A Bit Like ‘Mordor’

It really does.

3) If You Thought The ‘Cock’ Stuff Was Rude...

In 2014 Mordaunt brought the House down with a speech about how some of her Royal Navy training wasn’t very useful...

“I have benefited from some excellent training by the Royal Navy, but on one occasion I felt that it was not as bespoke as it might have been. Fascinating though it was, I felt that the lecture and practical demonstration on how to care for the penis and testicles in the field failed to appreciate that some of us attending had been issued with the incorrect kit.”

4) She Did A Cracking Belly Flop On National TV

Back in 2014 the MP for Portsmouth North appeared on the water sports-based reality TV show, Splash.

Here is one particularly painful-looking attempt.

Ouch. Mordaunt got a bit of stick for appearing on the show but dismissed it and added she was donating her £10,000 fee to restoring her local lido and to a variety of armed forces charities.

5) She’s A Brexiteer Who Stood Accused Of Fibbing During The Referendum Run-Up

Here’s what she said about Turkey: 

And this was her then-boss’s response (David Cameron fyi, remember him?)

“Let me be clear. Britain and every other country in the European Union has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact.

“The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong, I think should call into question their whole judgement in making the bigger argument about leaving the EU.”

That’s that settled then.

6) She Spent Her Gap Year Working In Romania’s Orphanages In 1990

She describes the experience as “life-changing” and credits it as the inspiration behind pursuing a career in politics. 

7) She Paid Her Way Through College By Performing As A Magician’s Assistant 

Mordaunt worked with a Portsmouth magician called Will Ayling, who was once president of The Magic Circle.  

I’ve been sawn in half and chopped to bits.

8) She Used To Work For George W Bush

Mordaunt was Head of Foreign Press for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign – long before President Trump came along and made us all remember him fondly.

USA Today Sports / Reuters

9) And Seeing As You’ve Read This Far...

Here’s a bit more about her...

  • The 44-year-old was born in Devon and has a twin brother, James
  • She is married to Ian Lyon, a classical singer - the couple breed Burmese cats
  • She studied philosophy at the University of Reading
  • Mordaunt has worked for Kensington and Chelsea Council, the Freight Transport Association and Diabetes UK
  • Her first shot at politics was a failed attempt to gain the seat of Portsmouth North in 2005
  • She won the seat from Labour in 2010
  • She became the first ever Minister of State for the Armed Forces in May 2015