Penny Mordaunt: Most Surprising Moments From Her PM Campaign So Far

Mordaunt is already pipped to be one of the final contenders for the top job in No.10.
Penny Mordaunt at the launch of her campaign to be Conservative Party leader and PM on Wednesday
Penny Mordaunt at the launch of her campaign to be Conservative Party leader and PM on Wednesday
Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images

Penny Mordaunt has become the unexpected frontrunner in the race to become the Conservative leader, but there have already been a few bumps in her campaign.

A YouGov poll among Conservative Party members caused some upset on Wednesday when it found that she was the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson, beating out current lead Rishi Sunak.

She also came second to Sunak in the first official Tory ballot last night, where Conservative MPs voted on who they would be backing to be the next prime minister.

But there have already been some eyebrow-raising moments in her campaign so far...

1. No love lost with Frost

Former cabinet minister Lord David Frost voiced his “grave reservations” about Mordaunt during an interview on TalkTV on Thursday. The two worked together last year during the Brexit negotiations, as she is trade minister and Frost was then-chief negotiator of Task Force Europe.

He said: “I am quite surprised that she is where she is in this leadership race.

“She was my deputy, notionally more than really, I think, in the Brexit talks last year.”

He continued: “She did not master the detail that was necessary in the negotiations last year, she wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the EU when that was necessary, and I’m afraid she wasn’t fully accountable and she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was.

“After six months, I had to ask the prime minister to move her on and find somebody else to support me.”

Her team later responded: “Penny has nothing but respect for Lord Frost who did a huge amount to assist our negotiations until he resigned from government.

“Penny will always stick up for Brexit and always has.”

2. ‘Theresa May with bigger hair’

Mordaunt is considerably more low-profile than many of her opponents who have been serving in cabinet throughout Johnson’s premiership.

She has even been described as “Theresa May with bigger hair” in a putdown from a diarist recently.

Sky News’ Beth Rigby pointed this out to the leadership hopeful during her launch this week, claiming: “The public have no idea who you are.”

But Mordaunt replied by just talking about “levelling up” the UK.

3. Mentioning a ‘willy’ during her launch

Mordaunt’s opponents have attacked her stance on trans rights in recent days, after a remark she made last year resurfaced: “Trans men are men and trans women are women.”

Attempting to clarify her position, during her leadership launch Mordaunt said: “Let me deal with the issue that is floating in the background there.

“I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that every prime minister needs a willy. A woman like me doesn’t have one.”

She then addressed the matter again later in her speech, claiming: “I can tell you if you have been in the Royal Navy and competed against men, you know the difference between men and women.”

4. When NZ4PM became PM4PM

Nadhim Zahawi, the current chancellor, encountered a tricky obstacle when his leadership election website redirected to Mordaunt’s.

His election tag was NZ4PM with the accompanying website – but the domain name was apparently too close to Mordaunt’s

Typing it into the URL triggers a message urging people to vote for Mordaunt, supposedly from “an anonymous Penny Mordaunt supporter” to come up. still redirects to Penny Mordaunt still redirects to Penny Mordaunt

Zahawi’s team promised to have the issue rectified by Thursday, but he was then knocked out of the contest after failing to secure the backing of 30 MPs last night.

5. Campaign video blunder(s)

Mordaunt’s three-minute campaign video announcing her PM bid was first put up on Sunday morning, but appeared to include the faces of people who had not given their consent to being in the broadcast.

Athlete Jonnie Peacock, who won gold for Britain at the 2012 Paralympics, tweeted Mordaunt when he spotted the video, asking to be removed. He added: “Anything but blue please.”

The clip also included images of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, which led her family to raise concerns.

The video then caused even further outrage after viewers spotted the convicted killer Oscar Pistorious in one of the shots.

An edited version was put up five hours after the original video was posted on Twitter, with all three individuals removed, but it was another two hours before the first version was deleted.


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