Boris Johnson, a political star so well-known that many people simply referred to him as Boris, triumphed in the previous election for a new leader of the Conservative Party in Britain. Johnson led the race from the beginning to the end. Three years later, the favourite of the bookmakers is Penny Mordaunt, a junior trade minister who is so little known that some voters have admitted to pollsters that they get her confused with another single-name English star: the musician Adele.
The wide-open and unpredictable character of the race is reflected in the meteoric rise in Ms. Mordaunt’s popularity in recent days. And it shows how much of a spectre Mr. Johnson still looms over the political landscape in Britain. One of Ms. Mordaunt’s calling cards is the fact that she has no affiliation with the prime minister who was only recently removed from office. She presents herself as a new beginning after the never-ending turmoil of the previous three years. Legislators from the Conservative party are now reacting.
To be quite clear, Ms. Mordaunt, who is 49 years old, is not now in the lead: In the second round of voting on Thursday, Rishi Sunak, who had previously served as chancellor of the Exchequer, received the support of 101 members of the legislative body, earning him the position of Speaker of the House. With 83 votes, Ms. Mordaunt finished in second place. The results of the vote of the party’s rank-and-file members will be disclosed at the beginning of September. Conservative lawmakers will conduct further votes early this week, before forwarding two candidates to a vote of the party’s rank-and-file membership.
However, Ms. Mordaunt has the potential to be a tough rival if she is selected as one of the last two candidates. She came in first place in a head-to-head contest against Mr. Sunak in a vote that was taken among members the week before. She also handily outpolled the third candidate, Liz Truss, who is Mr. Johnson’s foreign secretary and has refused to renounce him. On the other hand, Ms. Mordaunt does not fit the profile of either a Johnson supporter or an insurgent character.
However, the rapid ascent of Ms. Mordaunt has frightened her detractors, who argue that she lacks experience and is only marginally equipped to be prime minister. Ms. Mordaunt, the daughter of a paratrooper who is also a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, served as defence secretary for around two and a half months in 2019, in addition to holding a lower cabinet role in responsibility of international development.
As Ms. Mordaunt’s notoriety has increased, so have the number and severity of the assaults made against her. David Frost, who had previously served as Mr. Johnson’s Brexit negotiator but had left from that position the previous year, provided a damning assessment of Ms. Mordaunt, who had been his deputy. He said that she had a weak grasp of the details and was often absent from her government department. He also claimed that she was such an issue that he had urged the prime minister to transfer her to a different position.
Ms. Mordaunt came under further fire on the subject during a televised debate that took place on Friday evening. One of her opponents, Kemi Badenoch, questioned whether or not she had backtracked on her former stance during the discussion. The performance of Ms. Mordaunt was criticised for being shaky and lacklustre by several observers.
According to the analysts, the fact that the race was still uncertain contributed to its particularly violent character. Mr. Sunak, the early front-runner, has come under assault by Mr. Johnson’s followers, who regard his departure from the position less than two weeks ago, which created the framework for the collapse of the prime minister, as a betrayal. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who served in cabinet with Mr. Sunak only a few days ago, voiced his disagreement with the tax policies that he implemented as chancellor. It was reported that Mr. Rees-Mogg had referred to the strategy, which included an increase in taxes, as “socialist.” However, he declined to dispute the accusations.
Since she did not step down from her position in Mr. Johnson’s cabinet, Ms. Truss runs the risk of becoming the one most intimately linked with him. Some people thought that her campaign got off to a start that was less than exciting, thus they criticised it. Despite the fact that she has a strong background, most do not regard her as a charismatic campaigner. She was compared to Hillary Clinton by a liberal Democrat legislator, while Ms. Mordaunt was considered to more closely resemble Bill Clinton by the same member.
Ms. Truss, in contrast to Ms. Mordaunt, has a large amount of economic expertise. Nevertheless, despite the skyrocketing prices and the danger of a recession that haunts Britain, Ms. Mordaunt’s lack of strength in this area has not yet hampered her candidacy. According to the researchers, one of the major legacies of Mr. Johnson’s busy presidency was a lack of focus on the future.