Penny Mordaunt

Penelope Mary Mordaunt (/ˈmɔːrdənt/; born 4 March 1973)[3][4][5] is a British Conservative Party politician serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Portsmouth North since 2010 and as Paymaster General since February 2020. Mordaunt previously served in Theresa May's Cabinet as International Development Secretary from 2017 to 2019 and Defence Secretary in 2019.

Penny Mordaunt

Mordaunt in 2017
Paymaster General
Assumed office
13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byOliver Dowden
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
1 May 2019  24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byGavin Williamson
Succeeded byBen Wallace
Secretary of State for International Development
In office
9 November 2017  1 May 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byPriti Patel
Succeeded byRory Stewart
Minister for Women and Equalities
In office
30 April 2018  24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byAmber Rudd
Succeeded byAmber Rudd
Minister of State for Disabilities
In office
15 July 2016  9 November 2017
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byJustin Tomlinson
Succeeded bySarah Newton
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
In office
11 May 2015  15 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byMark François
Succeeded byMike Penning
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Decentralisation
In office
14 July 2014  11 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byNick Boles
Succeeded byJames Wharton
Member of Parliament
for Portsmouth North
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded bySarah McCarthy-Fry
Majority15,780 (34.4%)
Personal details
Penelope Mary Mordaunt

(1973-03-04) 4 March 1973 (age 48)
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
RankHonorary Commander[1][2]

Mordaunt served in the Cameron Government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government (2014–2015) prior to being appointed Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the Ministry of Defence in May 2015, the first woman to hold the post.[6][7] Starting in July 2016 she served in the May Government as Minister of State for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions. In November 2017, following the resignation of Priti Patel, Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for International Development. She also served as Minister for Women and Equalities from 2018 to 2019.

In May 2019, Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for Defence, replacing Gavin Williamson.[8] She served as Defence Secretary for 85 days, and was the first woman to hold this post. She is currently the only female MP who is a Royal Naval Reservist.[9]

In February 2020, Mordaunt re-entered government, joining the Cabinet Office as the Paymaster General, succeeding Oliver Dowden.

Early life and career

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.[10] Her father, John Mordaunt, born at Hilsea Barracks, served in the Parachute Regiment before retraining as a teacher. Mordaunt has two brothers: James and a younger brother, Edward.[11] Through her mother, Jennifer (née Snowden),[12] she is a relative of Philip Snowden, the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. Dame Angela Lansbury is her grandmother's cousin.[6][13] Mordaunt was educated at Oaklands Roman Catholic School Academy, Waterlooville, Hampshire and studied drama at the Victoryland Theatre School.[14]

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, who was once president of The Magic Circle.[15]

She has attributed her interest in politics to her experiences working in hospitals and orphanages of Romania in her gap year, whilst that country was in the aftermath of the 1989 revolution.[16]

Mordaunt read Philosophy at the University of Reading, graduating in 1995 with upper second class honours. She was the first member of her family to attend university.[11] Mordaunt was active in student politics and served as president of the Reading University Students' Union.[citation needed]

After her graduation, 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.[11] 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.[17][18] She was director of communications for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea from 2001 to 2003, before leaving to set up a new Anglo-American website called 'virtualconservatives'.[19][11] She worked for the Bush campaign again in 2004.[20] 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, became one of six Directors at charity Diabetes UK.[21][22]

Parliamentary career (2010–present)

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,[11] but lost to Labour candidate Sarah McCarthy-Fry by 1,139 votes.[23] A critic of women-only shortlists,[24][25] Mordaunt worked after the 2005 election as chief of staff for David Willetts' aborted leadership campaign.[26]

Mordaunt was re-selected in January 2006 to contest Portsmouth North at the 2010 general election.[11] At the election she won the seat with an 8.6% swing from Labour giving her a 7,289 majority. She was re-elected at the 2015 and 2017 general elections.

After her election, she was a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Defence Reform Act 2014.[27] She is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed an early day motion in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service.[28]

When receiving the Speech of the Year award at The Spectator magazine's Parliamentarian of the Year Awards 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.[29][30] She 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.[31]

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.[32][33]

In 2014, Mordaunt appeared on reality television programme Splash!. Although some[who?] criticised the media appearance, questioning whether her focus should instead have been on her constituency work, Mordaunt stated that the response was overwhelmingly positive and defended her appearance,[34] 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.[35]

In the EU membership referendum, Mordaunt supported the leave, or Brexit, option.[36][37][38]

In June 2020, in response to vandalism of war memorials, Mourdant stated: "I would like to suggest that for some found guilty of vandalising such memorials they might benefit from some time spent with our service personnel – perhaps at a battle camp. That might give them a new appreciation of just what these people go through for their sakes."[39]

In June 2020, Mourdant said that some Overseas Development Assistance should instead be spent on a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia.[40]

International Development Secretary (2017–2019)

Penny Mordaunt on a visit to Kutupalong in Bangladesh (2017)

Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for International Development on 9 November 2017, after Priti Patel resigned over a series of apparently secret and unauthorised meetings she had with Israeli politicians while on holiday.[41]

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.[42]

She became Minister for Women and Equalities in April 2018, replacing Amber Rudd, who had resigned following the Windrush scandal.[43]

In Parliament she 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).[44]

Defence Secretary (2019)

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.[45] After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, Mordaunt left Government on 24 July 2019.[46]

Paymaster General (2020–present)

In February 2020, Mourdant re-entered Government, joining the Cabinet Office as the Paymaster General, succeeding Oliver Dowden.[47] She was the UK alternate co-chair of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee.[48]

Personal life

She met and married Paul Murray in 1999 when they were both mature students at Reading University but this ended in divorce the following year.[49] She was later in a long-term relationship with Ian Lyon, a classical singer.[50]

She has a twin brother, James.

Other activities

Mordaunt is a Royal Naval Reservist, serving as an acting Sub-Lieutenant, at HMS King Alfred on Whale Island.[51][52]

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she is a member of the British Astronomical Association and is involved in many charities active in the Portsmouth area, including Southsea Greenhouse, Hilsea Lido, the Patey Centre, and Wymering Manor.[53]

See also


  1. "Defence Secretary: Treasury 'Missing A Trick' On Military's Value To UK". Forces Network. 21 June 2019.
  2. Schofield, Kevin (21 June 2019). "Penny Mordaunt accuses Philip Hammond of failing to appreciate value of defence spending". Politics Home. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. "No. 59418". The London Gazette. 13 May 2010. p. 8744.
  4. Mordaunt, Penny (2009). Penny welcome video blog. YouTube. Event occurs at 0:05. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  5. Profile,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  6. Hope, Christopher (15 July 2014). "Pen portraits of the 10 Conservative women ministers who were promoted in the reshuffle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  7. Kelly, Liam (15 July 2014). "Brandon Lewis promoted to housing and planning minister in reshuffle". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  8. Proctor, Charlie (1 May 2019). "The Queen appoints Penny Mordaunt as the first ever female Defence Secretary".
  9. "Reservists start officer training at BRNC". 20 July 2020.
  10. "Strategic Defence and Security Review". Hansard. 21 June 2010.
  11. "Penny Mordaunt profile". Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  12. Kinchen, Rosie (12 January 2014). "Penny Mordaunt: Get fresh and the mermaid of Westminster will break your arm" via
  13. Bell, Matthew (18 March 2004). "The Feral Beast: Cecilia pins her hopes on the Pope". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  14. "Penny Mordaunt: Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North". Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  15. "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.
  16. Murphy, Joe (18 March 2004). "Howard's harem". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  17. Murray, Jenni (host); Mordaunt, Penny (guest) (1 September 2008). "The role of women in McCain's presidential campaign". Woman's Hour. BBC Radio 4.
  18. Brogan, Benedict (14 June 2001). "Bush's black spin doctor backs Hague". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  19. "New Head of PR at Kensington and Chelsea". PR Week. 10 January 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  20. Hamilton-Miller, Tara (3 January 2008). "Tara's top Tories". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  21. Black, Alex (4 May 2006). "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, Diabetes UK". PR Week. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  22. "About Diabetes UK". Charity website. Archived from the original on 23 May 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  23. "Hopefuls tackle Pompey FC crisis". BBC News. 3 May 2010.
  24. Appleton, Josie (20 April 2005). "How will women vote?". Spiked. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  25. Woolf, Marie (15 January 2005). "Tories face call for positive discrimination". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  26. "Tory Leadership Watch: August". BBC News. August 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  27. "House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Defence Reform Bill 2013–14". Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  28. Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion No. 342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  29. Mason, Chris (1 December 2014). "Penny Mordaunt speech: Fowl play or light-hearted fun?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  30. "Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt criticised for smutty Commons speech delivered 'for a dare'". London Evening Standard. 30 November 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  31. 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.
  32. Mason, Rowena (4 June 2014). "Penny Mordaunt brings the House down after Queen's speech". The Guardian.
  33. "Profile: Penny Mordaunt, a risqué but not revolting potential Tory leadership contender". Conservative Home. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  34. Booth, Jenny (14 January 2014). "Tory MP Penny Mordaunt defends appearing in swimsuit on TV reality show". The Times. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  35. Devlin, Kate (2 May 2019). "First female defence secretary Penny Mordaunt has armed forces in her blood". The Times.
  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 calls for cenotaph vandals to be sent to 'battle camps'". Sky News. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  40. Hope, Christopher (17 June 2020). "Spend the aid budget on a successor to HMY Britannia, Penny Mordaunt tells Boris Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  41. "Penny Mordaunt replaces Priti Patel in cabinet reshuffle". BBC News. 9 November 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  42. "Oxfam 'failed in moral leadership'". BBC News. 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  43. Elgot, Jessica (30 April 2018). "Penny Mordaunt adds women and equalities to ministerial role". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  44. "Penny Mordaunt". Parliament UK. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  45. "Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sacked over Huawei leak". BBC News. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  46. Devlin, Kate (24 July 2019). "Penny Mordaunt sacked as defence secretary". The Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  47. "Paymaster General - GOV.UK". Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  48. "Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee - Fact Sheet" (PDF). GOV.UK. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  49. Iain Dale (21 July 2019). "Penny Mordaunt interview: Britain's first female defence secretary on her dream job". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  50. "All aboard with Penny Mordaunt". London Evening Standard. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  51. Mordaunt, Penny (22 October 2010). "Diary of the week: Penny Mordaunt (blog)". Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  52. "Royal Naval Reservists mission on the Dart". Ministry of Defence. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  53. Stafford, Stephen (15 February 2013). "Volunteers' hopes for 'haunted' Wymering Manor". BBC News. Retrieved 15 July 2014.