Penny Mordaunt is a British politician and member of the Conservative Party, serving as Minister of State for Trade Policy since 2021. She has been the Member of Parliament (MP) representing Portsmouth North since 2010.

Following Johnson’s resignation this month, Mordaunt announced she was running in the leadership race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, which could, in turn, make her the next prime minister.

Born on March 4, 1973, in Torquay, Devon, to a former paratrooper, Mordaunt previously served in Theresa May’s Cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development from 2017 to 2019 and Secretary of State for Defence from May to July 2019. 

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In an interview, Mordaunt said that she was named after the Arethusa-class cruiser HMS Penelope. Her father, John Mordaunt, born at Hilsea Barracks, served in the Parachute Regiment before retraining as a teacher. Her mother, Jennifer (née Snowden), was a special needs teacher at several Purbrook schools.

Mordaunt was educated at Oaklands Roman Catholic Comprehensive School in Waterlooville, Hampshire and studied drama at the Victoryland Theatre School. She read philosophy at the University of Reading, before working in the public relations industry.

She held roles within the Conservative Party under party leaders John Major and William Hague, and also worked for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004.

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Mordaunt was elected to the House of Commons in May 2010. She served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Decentralisation from 2014 to 2015 under the coalition government of David Cameron. She was later promoted by Cameron to Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the first woman to hold the post.

Mordaunt supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum on EU membership. After Theresa May was appointed Prime Minister, Mordaunt took the role of Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health.

In 2017, following the resignation of Priti Patel, she 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, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

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She has also spent 85 days as Defence Secretary before being removed from the position by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She re-entered government as Paymaster General in the February 2020 reshuffle. The 2021 reshuffle got her appointed as Minister of State for Trade Policy.

John Lamont, who is coordinating Mordaunt’s campaign in Scotland, called her an “electoral asset” and compared her to Cameron, saying he had also not been well known by the public before becoming party leader.