Penny Mordaunt

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The Right Honourable
Penny Mordaunt
Official portrait of Penny Mordaunt crop 2.jpg
Secretary of State for International Development
Assumed office
9 November 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by Priti Patel
Minister of State for Disabled People
In office
15 July 2016 – 9 November 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by Justin Tomlinson
Succeeded by Sarah Newton
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
In office
11 May 2015 – 15 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Mark Francois
Succeeded by Mike Penning
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
14 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Nick Boles
Succeeded by James Wharton
Member of Parliament
for Portsmouth North
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Majority 9,965 (21.1%)
Personal details
Born Penelope Mary Mordaunt
(1973-03-04) 4 March 1973 (age 44)
Torquay, Devon, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Paul Murray
(m. 1999; div. 2000)
Alma mater University of Reading
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 2013 – present
Rank Generic-Navy-O1.svg Acting Sub Lieutenant
Mordaunt in 2014

Penelope Mary Mordaunt[1] (born 4 March 1973)[2] is a Conservative politician in the United Kingdom. She was first elected as the member of parliament (MP) for Portsmouth North at the 2010 general election. Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on 9 November 2017.[3]

Mordaunt was born in Torquay, Devon and studied philosophy at the University of Reading. Before entering parliament, she worked in business and communications, working in the private, public and charitable sectors, including as director of communications for Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. She is currently the only female MP who is a Royal Naval Reservist.

Mordaunt was appointed as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government in July 2014.[4][5] In May 2015, prime minister David Cameron appointed her Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the MoD, the first woman to take this post.[6]

In July 2016, the new Prime Minister Theresa May appointed her to a newly created Minister of State position at the Department for Work and Pensions. She was appointed Secretary of State for International Development in November 2017 following the resignation of Priti Patel.[7]

Early life[edit]

The daughter of a former paratrooper, one of twins born in Torquay, Devon, Mordaunt was named after the Leander-class frigate HMS Penelope.[8] Her father, who had been born in Hilsea Barracks, had left the Parachute Regiment and trained as a teacher.[8]

Mordaunt has two brothers: James, and a younger brother, Edward.[9] She is a descendant of Philip Snowden, the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. Angela Lansbury is her grandmother's cousin.[10]

Mordaunt was educated at Oaklands Roman Catholic School Academy, Waterlooville, Hampshire, and studied drama at the Victoryland Theatre School.[11]

When Mordaunt was 15, her mother died of breast cancer.[8] Mordaunt's twin brother left school, so she became Edward's prime caregiver. The following year her father was diagnosed with cancer, from which he recovered.[8] To pay her way through sixth-form college, Mordaunt became a magician's assistant to Portsmouth magician Will Ayling, once president of The Magic Circle.[8]

She has attributed her interest in politics to her experiences working in hospitals and orphanages of post-revolutionary Romania in her gap year, after the 1989 revolution.[12] She graduated from the University of Reading with a BA in philosophy in 1995, becoming the first member of her family to attend university.[9]


Early career[edit]

After graduating, Mordaunt began a career in business and communications, working in the private, public and charitable sectors. She was director of communications for Kensington and Chelsea Council and supported British truckers during the French blockades while working for the Freight Transport Association.[9] She was a director at the Community Fund which merged administratively with the New Opportunities Fund to create the Big Lottery Fund. In 2006, Mordaunt became Director of Diabetes UK.[13]

Mordaunt has also worked with several high-profile politicians. Under Prime Minister John Major she was Head of Youth for the Conservative Party, and also had a two-year spell as Head of Broadcasting under party leader William Hague.[9] In 2000, she was Head of Foreign Press for George W. Bush's presidential campaign,[14][15] and she worked for the Bush campaign again in 2004.[16] After the 2005 election she worked as chief of staff for David Willetts's aborted leadership campaign.[17]

Early Parliamentary career[edit]

In November 2003, Mordaunt was selected as Conservative candidate to contest Portsmouth North in the 2005 general election. She managed to attain a 5.5% swing towards the Conservatives[9] but lost to Labour candidate Sarah McCarthy-Fry by 1,139 votes.[18] A critic of women-only shortlists,[19][20] Mordaunt was re-selected in January 2006 to contest Portsmouth North for the 2010 general election.[9] She proposed standing for Mayor of London as a commuter mayor.[21]

In the 2010 general election, Mordaunt won the seat with an 8.6% swing from Labour, giving her a 7,289 majority.

After her election, she was a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Defence Reform Act 2014.[22] She is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed an early day motion in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service.[23]

In 2014, Mordaunt became only the second woman in Elizabeth II's reign (the first being Lady Tweedsmuir in 1957) to propose the loyal address in reply to the Queen's speech from the throne, and made reference to Tweedsmuir's comments about wanting more female involvement in Parliament.[24] Mordaunt remarked “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.”[25]

When receiving The Spectator magazine's Parliamentarian of the Year award in November 2014, Mordaunt revealed that she had delivered a speech in the House of Commons just before the Easter recess in 2013 on poultry welfare so as to use the word "cock", as a forfeit for a misdemeanour during Naval Reserve training.[26][27] Mordaunt used the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times. Following her admission, she was accused by Labour MP Kate Hoey of trivialising parliament.[28]

In a May 2016 BBC Television interview during the run-up to the EU membership referendum, Mourdant denied that the UK had a veto on Turkey joining the EU, despite Article 49 of the EU constitution requiring a unanimous vote of all 28 members of the General Council to allowing accession of a candidate state, thus creating a power of veto by a dissenting member nation.[29] She supported the leave, or Brexit, option in the campaign.[30] Prime Minister David Cameron stated her opinion was "completely wrong"[31] and Guy Verhofstadt called her statement "contemptible".[32]

Secretary of State for International Development[edit]

Mordaunt visiting the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on 25 November 2017

In November 2017, Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for International Development, after Priti Patel resigned over a series of apparently secret and unauthorised meetings she had with Israeli politicians while on holiday.

In February 2018, an investigation by the Times newspaper revealed allegations of misconduct by Oxfam staff in operating in Haiti, in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Mordaunt argued that Oxfam, which received £32m in Government funds in the previous financial year, had failed in its "moral leadership" over the "scandal". She also said that Oxfam did "absolutely the wrong thing" by not reporting the detail of the allegations to the government. Mordaunt felt it was important for aid organisations to report offences, because she believed that there were paedophiles "targeting" the charity sector in order to carry out predatory activities.[33]

Other activities[edit]

Mordaunt is a Royal Naval Reservist, serving as an acting sub-lieutenant, at HMS King Alfred on Whale Island.[34][35]

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, a member of the British Astronomical Association, and she is involved in many charities active in the Portsmouth area, including Southsea Greenhouse, Hilsea Lido, The Patey Centre, and Wymering Manor, about which she said: "We wouldn't have embarked on the project if we weren't confident it would be sustainable and could provide a community facility which will be used for many many years. Lots of people really see its potential – it could be a wonderful space."[36] Mordaunt is a patron of Victoria Cross Trust, as well as an ambassador for Portsmouth Scouts.

In 2014, Mordaunt appeared on reality television programme Splash!.[37] Although some criticised the media appearance, Mordaunt insists that the response was overwhelmingly positive and defended her appearance,[38] stating that she was donating all of her £10,000 appearance fee plus any additional sponsorship to charity: £7,000 towards the renovation of her local lido; the rest to four Armed Services charities.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Mordaunt was married for six months to Paul Murray who was a fellow student at Reading University.[39] Mordaunt until recently lived with her partner, Ian Lyon, a classical singer and director of an IT company, who was elected to Portsmouth City Council for Nelson Ward.[9] The couple bred Burmese cats.[39]


  1. ^ "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8744. 
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  3. ^ Staff writer (8 November 2017). "Priti Patel quits over Israel meetings row". BBC News. Retrieved 8 November 2017. 
  4. ^ Hope, Christopher (15 July 2014). "Pen portraits of the 10 Conservative women ministers who were promoted in the reshuffle". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Liam (15 July 2014). "Brandon Lewis promoted to housing and planning minister in reshuffle". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Cameron, David (11 May 2015). "Penny Mordaunt first woman to become Armed Forces Minister". Twitter. 
  7. ^ Staff writer (9 November 2017). "Penny Mordaunt replaces Priti Patel in cabinet reshuffle". BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Fryer, Jane (17 January 2014). "Why our sexiest MP is on Splash! tonight". Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Penny Mordaunt profile". Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Bell, Matthew (18 March 2004). "The Feral Beast: Cecilia pins her hopes on the Pope". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "Penny Mordaunt: Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Murphy, Joe (18 March 2004). "Howard's harem". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Black, Alex (4 May 2006). "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, Diabetes UK". PR Week. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  14. ^ Murray, Jenni (host); Mordaunt, Penny (guest) (1 September 2008). "The role of women in McCain's presidential campaign". Woman's Hour. BBC Radio 4. 
  15. ^ Brogan, Benedict (14 June 2001). "Bush's black spin doctor backs Hague". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  16. ^ Hamilton-Miller, Tara (3 January 2008). "Tara's top Tories". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  17. ^ Staff writer (August 2005). "Tory Leadership Watch: August". BBC News. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "Portsmouth News". 
  19. ^ Appleton, Josie (20 April 2005). "How will women vote?". Spiked. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  20. ^ Woolf, Marie (15 January 2005). "Tories face call for positive discrimination". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  21. ^ "ConservativeHome's London Mayor blog". 
  22. ^ "House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Defence Reform Bill 2013–14". Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion No. 342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". 
  24. ^ Mason, Rowena (4 June 2014). "Penny Mordaunt brings the House down after Queen's speech". The Guardian. 
  25. ^ "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, a risqué but not revolting potential Tory leadership contender". Conservative Home. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  26. ^ Mason, Chris (1 December 2014). "Penny Mordaunt speech: Fowl play or light-hearted fun?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Standard reporter (30 November 2014). "Penny Mordaunt speech: Fowl play or light-hearted fun?". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  28. ^ Eleftheriou-Smith, Loulla-Mae (30 November 2014). "Tory MP Penny Mordaunt said 'c**k' several times in Parliament speech as part of Navy dare". The Independent. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  29. ^ Staff writer (24 May 2016). "EU referendum: Row over Turkey's membership bid escalates". BBC News. Retrieved 2 November 2017. 
  30. ^ Withnail, Adam (22 May 2016). "Tory minister Penny Mordaunt 'plain and simple lying' over Turkey joining EU". The Independent. Retrieved 2 November 2017. 
  31. ^ Asthana, Anushka (22 May 2016). "David Cameron suggests defence minister is lying over Turkey joining EU". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  32. ^ Verhofstadt, Guy (31 May 2016). "Relax, Britain – you can hate the eurozone and still vote remain". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  33. ^ Staff writer (11 February 2018). "Oxfam 'failed in moral leadership'". BBC News. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  34. ^ Mordaunt, Penny (22 October 2010). "Diary of the week: Penny Mordaunt (blog)". Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  35. ^ Staff writer (12 March 2014). "Royal Naval Reservists mission on the Dart". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  36. ^ Stafford, Stephen (15 February 2013). "Volunteers' hopes for 'haunted' Wymering Manor". BBC News. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  37. ^ Reade, Brian (18 January 2014). "Penny Mordaunt is just another attention seeker drowning her political credibility in the reality show cesspit". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  38. ^ Booth, Jenny (14 January 2014). "Tory MP Penny Mordaunt defends appearing in swimsuit on TV reality show". The Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  39. ^ a b Owen, Glen (25 January 2014). "News Splash! How diving MP Penny Mordaunt took the plunge in a 'secret' marriage to uni sweetheart that left her so scarred 'she never wants to marry again'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North
Political offices
Preceded by
Mark Francois
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Mike Penning
Preceded by
Priti Patel
Secretary of State for International Development