Penny Mordaunt: Brexiteer who made a Splash! on TV


The appointment of Penny Mordaunt as International Development Secretary maintains the balance within Theresa May's Cabinet of women and men and supporters of Remain and Leave in last year's EU referendum.

Like her predecessor Priti Patel, Ms Mordaunt was a keen supporter of Brexit in the referendum campaign, and her promotion will please Eurosceptics who did not want to see any increase in the numbers of Remainers around the Cabinet table.

First elected to Parliament as MP for Portsmouth North in 2010, Ms Mordaunt, 44, achieved ministerial rank under David Cameron between 2014 and 2016 and was appointed minister for disabled people when Theresa May took power last year.

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She is best known to the public for donning her swimsuit in the TV show Splash! in 2014, when she joined celebrities to be trained in diving by Olympian Tom Daley.

The daughter of a paratrooper-turned-teacher, she is a Royal Navy reservist, serving as an acting sub-lieutenant of the Portsmouth-based HMS King Alfred.

Her appointment was welcomed by aid charities, who said she would be able to draw on her experience working in hospitals and orphanages in Romania as a student after the 1989 revolution.

Born in Torquay as one of twins, Ms Mordaunt moved with her family to Portsmouth at the age of two.

Her teacher mother died from breast cancer when she was 15.

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Educated at a local comprehensive, she worked as a magician's assistant before studying drama at the Victoryland Theatre School and philosophy at Reading University.

She was Conservative head of youth under Sir John Major and worked in William Hague's press office during his leadership, as well as in the 2004 election campaign of US president George W Bush.

She also made a career in communications, business and charity, becoming director of Diabetes UK.

Ms Mordaunt failed in her first attempt at the Portsmouth North seat in 2005, but overturned Labour's majority to enter Parliament in 2010 and increased her share of the vote in each of the following polls.

Penny Mordaunt in 2010. (Steve Parsons/PA)
Penny Mordaunt in 2010. (Steve Parsons/PA)

She became a junior communities minister in 2014 and was then appointed the first female defence minister for the armed forces in UK history in 2015, and backed Andrea Leadsom in her unsuccessful bid to succeed Mr Cameron last year.

She was only the second woman in Elizabeth II's reign to propose the loyal address in reply to the Queen's Speech.

But she was also once accused of trivialising Parliament after admitting she had smuggled repeated mentions of the word "cock" into a Commons speech as part of a bet with fellow reservists.