by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 14
July 2022
Debate
07:00

Will a TV debate sink Penny Mordaunt?

Her record as one of the wokest Tories leaves her open to challenge
by Peter Franklin
Can she hold her nerve?

The first MPs’ ballot has left the Conservative leadership race delicately poised. Though Rishi Sunak came first with 88 votes, he’s not that far ahead of Penny Mordaunt on 67 votes. Liz Truss came third on 50 votes and Kemi Badenoch fourth on 40. 

There’s some debate as to whether Mordaunt now has the momentum in this contest. Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome, believes so. “This election is now [hers] to lose”.  Conservative commentator Andrew Lilico disagrees; of the three front runners, he argues “none of them have the momentum… they’ve all done less well than one might have expected at this stage.”

We’ll soon know who’s right, but the margins between the candidates are slim enough to allow an upset. There are three factors to look out for.

Firstly, the collapse of the front-runner’s biggest advantage — which is inevitable. Many MPs back the leading candidate for no other reason than they think he or she is going to win. Once that doesn’t seem quite so certain, support can melt away. 

The second possibility is that one or more of the stragglers will pull out and do a deal with someone more likely to win. There’s already talk of the Truss, Badenoch and Braverman campaigns merging to provide a united candidate for the Tory Right. 

And, thirdly, there’s the impact of the forthcoming televised debates. Assuming that all the remaining candidates agree to participate, a lot could turn on how well they perform under attack. 

Sunak has already weathered various criticisms, implicit and explicit, of his record as Chancellor. He will know what’s heading his way in any debate — and ought to be prepared for it. Penny Mordaunt has more reason to be nervous. She’s become the one to stop — and her record as one of the wokest Tories leaves her open to challenge. Her opponents will be paying close attention to any discrepancies between what she says now on the relevant issues and what she’s said in the past.

For an American example of what can happen to an unprepared candidate, look at this clip in which Tulsi Gabbard skewers Kamala Harris during the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination. It’s excruciating stuff and the Harris campaign never recovered. 

Of course, not everyone has the gumption to take on a fellow candidate in this way — and I doubt that Mordaunt would have much to fear from Sunak, who’s been notably tongue-tied on questions like “what is a woman?”. Truss might prove to be a more formidable opponent, but she’s vulnerable to a counter-attack for voting Remain in 2016. 

If I were Mordaunt, the opponent I’d really worry about is Kemi Badenoch — who is famously outspoken in her anti-wokeness. That’s not to say that any of the candidates will come as badly unstuck as Harris did, but the potential does exist for a game-changing moment.   

The best-case scenario for Mordaunt is that Badenoch is eliminated before any head-on confrontation. 

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Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
1 month ago

I am horrified by the suppport for Mordaunt. It is not just that, to me, she is completely unknown, but that she is ruled out of court as the worst conceivable choice for anyone interested in restoring sanity to our woke-infested society. You can bet your boots that, if elected, she will soon be supporting wokery in one or more of its malignant forms, whatever she may have said in her campaign.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Lewis

Yes, I fear she is a light-weight compared to Kemi. Not only is she unsound on the woman question but I gather she claimed incorrectly at the time of Brexit that the UK could not veto Turkey joining the EU and subsequently waffled unconvincingly that the UK couldn’t because Cameron was in favour when the obvious falsity of her claim was pointed out. As slippery as anything Boris has come up with. She seems OK with a prepared speech but is not good enough in an interview context.
Unfortunately, it rather looks as if the membership will pick her over Sunak unless her weaknesses are exposed in debate allowing Truss or Kemi Badenoch to come through as the second choice.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Lewis

Completely agree! I’m baffled by it too.

Kemi is clearly the one to go for.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

I don’t think the general public is that worried about woke/anti-woke, except in the sense that they wish everyone would STFU about it. Or until it comes to an HR department near them
The desperate attacks by the Guardian/Independent lefty crowd on Badenoch and Braverman are interesting though. Why do they fear these black women so much?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago

Because success does not fit their narrative of the oppressed black person (also substitute successful working class white or any other similar group)

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
1 month ago

Or until one of their kids goes trans, infected by woke propaganda at school and encouraged by teachers and friends alike.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

I think the general public are VERY worried about it – they just don’t dare say so in case they attract the mob. And that is the very reason why Kemi Badenoch being willing and able to take that agenda on is so important. Freedom to think and say what you believe without fear of a mob attack is fundamental to any truly democratic society. It must be addressed and the truth be told to stop our continued slide into national self-hatred.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

I think the general public are VERY worried about it – they just don’t dare say so in case they attract the mo b. And that is the very reason why Kemi Badenoch being willing and able to take that agenda on is so important. Freedom to think and say what you believe without fear of a mo b atta ck is fundamental to any truly democratic society. It must be addressed and the truth be told to stop our continued slide into national self-ha tred.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

I think the general public are VERY worried about it – they just don’t dare say so in case they attract the mo b. And that is the very reason why Kemi Badenoch being willing and able to take that agenda on is so important. Freedom to think and say what you believe without fear of a mo b pile-on is fundamental to any truly democratic society. It must be addressed and the truth be told to stop our continued slide into national self-ha tred.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

I think the general public are very worried about it – they just don’t dare say so in case they attract the m ob. And that is the very reason why Kemi Badenoch being willing and able to take that agenda on is so important. Freedom to think and say what you believe without fear of a m ob is fundamental to any truly democratic society. It must be addressed and the truth be told to stop our continued slide into national self-hatred.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

Reversing the woke ideology is probably the biggest problem any of them has to deal with. That is why Kemi is the answer.

Michael J
Michael J
1 month ago

The general public who wish it would just go away and people would just shut up about woke do not understand the fundamental and existential threat that it poses to liberal democracies and our way of life.

It is largely a fight over ideas between intellectual elites, and presently a one sided one at that, but it is no less vital because people would rather zone out, sit back and watch love island or return to the Fresh Prince era. Ignoring the problem or wishing it away won’t work. Battle must be engaged and won and the enemy routed.