Penny Mordaunt

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Penny Mordaunt

Official portrait of Penny Mordaunt crop 2.jpg
Secretary of State for Defence
Assumed office
1 May 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byGavin Williamson
Minister for Women and Equalities
Assumed office
30 April 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byAmber Rudd
Secretary of State for International Development
In office
9 November 2017 – 1 May 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
DeputyRory Stewart
Harriet Baldwin
Preceded byPriti Patel
Succeeded byRory Stewart
Minister of State for Disabled People
In office
15 July 2016 – 9 November 2017
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Sec. of StateDamian Green
David Gauke
Preceded byJustin Tomlinson
Succeeded bySarah Newton
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
In office
11 May 2015 – 15 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Sec. of StateSir Michael Fallon
Preceded byMark Francois
Succeeded byMike Penning
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
14 July 2014 – 11 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Sec. of StateEric Pickles
Preceded byNick Boles
Succeeded byJames Wharton
Member of Parliament
for Portsmouth North
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded bySarah McCarthy-Fry
Majority9,965 (21.1%)
Personal details
Penelope Mary Mordaunt

(1973-03-04) 4 March 1973 (age 46)
Torquay, Devon, England
Political partyConservative
Paul Murray
(m. 1999; div. 2000)
Alma materUniversity of Reading
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Navy Reserve
Years of service2013–present
RankGeneric-Navy-O1.svg Acting Sub Lieutenant
Mordaunt in 2014

Penelope Mary Mordaunt[1] (/ˈmɔːrdənt/;[2] born 4 March 1973)[3] is a British Conservative politician serving as Secretary of State for Defence since 2019, and has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Portsmouth North since 2010. Mordaunt served as Secretary of State for International Development from 2017 to 2019. A member of the House of Commons, Mordaunt previously worked in the business and communications industry.

Mordaunt served in the Cameron Government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government prior to[4][5] being appointed Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the Ministry of Defence in May 2015, the first woman to hold this post.[6]

From July 2016 to November 2017, she served in the May Government as Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and in November 2017 she was appointed International Development Secretary following the resignation of Priti Patel.

In May 2019, Mordaunt was appointed Defence Secretary after Gavin Williamson was dismissed by Prime Minister Theresa May following a leak of highly classified information from the National Security Council.[7] She is the first woman to hold this post. Prior to becoming an MP, Mordaunt worked in business and communications and is currently the only female MP who is a Royal Naval Reservist.

Early life and career[edit]

Mordaunt was born on 4 March 1973 in Torquay, Devon. The daughter of a former paratrooper, one of twins, she was named after the Arethusa-class cruiser HMS Penelope.[8] Her father, who had been born in Hilsea Barracks, had left the Parachute Regiment and trained as a teacher. Mordaunt has two brothers: James, and a younger brother, Edward.[9] Through her mother, Jennifer (née Snowden),[10] she is a relative of Philip Snowden, the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. Angela Lansbury is her grandmother's cousin.[11][12] Mordaunt was educated at Oaklands Roman Catholic School Academy, Waterlooville, Hampshire, and studied drama at the Victoryland Theatre School.[13]

When Mordaunt was 15, her mother died of breast cancer. 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. 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.[14]

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.[15] 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]

After graduating, Mordaunt's employment was focused on public relations in various sectors. Under Prime Minister John Major she was Head of Youth for the Conservative Party, before working for two years as Head of Broadcasting for the party under party leader William Hague.[9] She then worked as a communications specialist for the Freight Transport Association before, in 2000, working briefly as Head of Foreign Press for George W. Bush's presidential campaign.[16][17] She was director of communications for Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council between 2001–2003, before leaving to set up a new Anglo-American website called 'virtualconservatives'.[18][9] She worked for the Bush campaign again in 2004.[19] She was a director at the Community Fund, which merged administratively with the New Opportunities Fund to create the Big Lottery Fund and in 2006, Mordaunt became one of six Directors at the charity Diabetes UK.[20][21]

Parliamentary career (2010–present)[edit]

In November 2003, Mordaunt was selected as Conservative candidate to contest Portsmouth North in the 2005 general election. She attained a 5.5% swing towards the Conservatives,[9] but lost to Labour candidate Sarah McCarthy-Fry by 1,139 votes.[22] A critic of women-only shortlists,[23][24] after the 2005 election she worked as chief of staff for David Willetts's aborted leadership campaign.[25]

Mordaunt was re-selected in January 2006 to contest Portsmouth North for the 2010 general election.[9] In the 2010 general election, Mordaunt won the seat with an 8.6% swing from Labour, giving her a 7,289 majority. She was re-elected at the 2015 general election and 2017 general election.

After her election, she was a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Defence Reform Act 2014.[26] She is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed an early day motion in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service.[27]

When receiving The Spectator magazine's Parliamentarian of the Year award in November 2014, Mordaunt said 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.[28][29] Mordaunt used the word "cock" six times and "lay" or "laid" five times. Following her comments, she was accused by Labour MP Kate Hoey of trivialising parliament.[30]

In 2014, Mordaunt became only the second woman in Elizabeth II's reign (the first having been 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.[31][32]

In 2014, Mordaunt appeared on reality television programme Splash!. Although some[who?] criticised the media appearance, in terms of questioning whether her focus should have been on her constituency work, Mordaunt stated that the response was overwhelmingly positive and defended her appearance,[33] 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.[citation needed]

In 2015, it was reported that Mordaunt had the tenth highest expense claims for the 2014/2015 year out of all the UK's 650 MPs. The majority of the top ten expenses claimants were from Scotland – and thus had high travel expenses as they had the longest distances to travel between their constituency and Westminster.[34]

In a May 2016 BBC Television interview during the run-up to the EU membership referendum, Mordaunt 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.[35] She supported the leave, or Brexit, option in the campaign.[36] Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her opinion was "completely wrong"[37] and Guy Verhofstadt called her statement "contemptible".[38]

International Development Secretary (2017–2019)[edit]

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

On 9 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.[39]

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.[40]

She became Minister for Women and Equalities in April 2018, replacing Amber Rudd, who had resigned following the Windrush scandal.[41]

In the House of Commons she has previously sat on the Privacy and Injunctions (Joint Committee), the Defence Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee and the Committees on Arms Export Controls (formerly Quadripartite Committee).[42]

Defence Secretary (2019–present)[edit]

On 1 May 2019, Mordaunt was appointed as the first ever female Defence Secretary following the dismissal of Gavin Williamson after an inquiry into a leak over a plan to allow Huawei limited access in connection with the UK's 5G network.[43]

Other activities[edit]

Mordaunt is a Royal Naval Reservist, serving as a sub-lieutenant, at HMS King Alfred on Whale Island.[44][45]

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.[46] Mordaunt is a patron of the Victoria Cross Trust, as well as an ambassador for Portsmouth Scouts.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8744.
  2. ^ Mordaunt, Penny (2009). Penny welcome video blog. YouTube. Event occurs at 0:05. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  3. ^ Profile,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  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. ^ Proctor, Charlie (1 May 2019). "The Queen appoints Penny Mordaunt as the first ever female Defence Secretary".
  8. ^ Penny Mordaunt; Hansard, 21 June 2010
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Penny Mordaunt profile". Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  10. ^ Kinchen, Rosie (12 January 2014). "Penny Mordaunt: Get fresh and the mermaid of Westminster will break your arm" – via
  11. ^ Hope, Christopher (15 July 2014). "Pen portraits of the 10 Conservative women ministers who were promoted in the reshuffle" – via
  12. ^ Bell, Matthew (18 March 2004). "The Feral Beast: Cecilia pins her hopes on the Pope". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  13. ^ "Penny Mordaunt: Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  14. ^ "Commons people: One year on, how are the new MPs coping with the highs and lows of power". The Independent. 17 April 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  15. ^ Murphy, Joe (18 March 2004). "Howard's harem". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  16. ^ Murray, Jenni (host); Mordaunt, Penny (guest) (1 September 2008). "The role of women in McCain's presidential campaign". Woman's Hour. BBC Radio 4.
  17. ^ Brogan, Benedict (14 June 2001). "Bush's black spin doctor backs Hague". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  18. ^ "New Head of PR at Kensington and Chelsea". PR Week. 10 January 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  19. ^ Hamilton-Miller, Tara (3 January 2008). "Tara's top Tories". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  20. ^ Black, Alex (4 May 2006). "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, Diabetes UK". PR Week. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  21. ^ "About Diabetes UK". Charity website. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Portsmouth News".
  23. ^ Appleton, Josie (20 April 2005). "How will women vote?". Spiked. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  24. ^ Woolf, Marie (15 January 2005). "Tories face call for positive discrimination". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  25. ^ "Tory Leadership Watch: August". BBC News. August 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  26. ^ "House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Defence Reform Bill 2013–14". Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  27. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion No. 342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy".
  28. ^ Mason, Chris (1 December 2014). "Penny Mordaunt speech: Fowl play or light-hearted fun?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  29. ^ "Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt criticised for smutty Commons speech delivered 'for a dare'". London Evening Standard. 30 November 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Mason, Rowena (4 June 2014). "Penny Mordaunt brings the House down after Queen's speech". The Guardian.
  32. ^ "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, a risqué but not revolting potential Tory leadership contender". Conservative Home. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  33. ^ Booth, Jenny (14 January 2014). "Tory MP Penny Mordaunt defends appearing in swimsuit on TV reality show". The Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  34. ^ "Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt racks up tenth largest parliamentary expenses bill with claims of £186,977". Portsmouth News. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  35. ^ "EU referendum: Row over Turkey's membership bid escalates". BBC News. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  36. ^ Withnail, Adam (22 May 2016). "Tory minister Penny Mordaunt 'plain and simple lying' over Turkey joining EU". The Independent. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  37. ^ Asthana, Anushka (22 May 2016). "David Cameron suggests defence minister is lying over Turkey joining EU". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  38. ^ Verhofstadt, Guy (31 May 2016). "Relax, Britain – you can hate the eurozone and still vote remain". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  39. ^ "Penny Mordaunt replaces Priti Patel in cabinet reshuffle". BBC News. 9 November 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  40. ^ "Oxfam 'failed in moral leadership'". BBC News. 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  41. ^ "International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt MP @PennyMordaunt additionally becomes Minister for Women and Equalities". Twitter. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  42. ^ "Penny Mordaunt". Parliament UK. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  43. ^ "Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sacked over Huawei leak". BBC News. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  44. ^ Mordaunt, Penny (22 October 2010). "Diary of the week: Penny Mordaunt (blog)". Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  45. ^ "Royal Naval Reservists mission on the Dart". Ministry of Defence. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  46. ^ Stafford, Stephen (15 February 2013). "Volunteers' hopes for 'haunted' Wymering Manor". BBC News. Retrieved 15 July 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
Succeeded by
Rory Stewart
Preceded by
Amber Rudd
Minister for Women and Equalities
Preceded by
Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Defence