Penny Mordaunt has said she is the Tory leadership candidate that “Labour fears most” as she prepares to face off in the first round of MP votes today.
The trade minister said in her official campaign launch today that she gives the Conservative party the “best shot” at winning the next election, while also vowing a return to small state government and traditional Tory values.
Mordaunt came out on top against every contender in a shock YouGov poll of Tory members today, which pitted contenders against each other in one-on-one battles.
Mordaunt shot to favouritism with bookmakers after the poll, which saw Mordaunt beat every other candidate by at least 18 points.
The eight remaining candidates to be next Tory leader and Prime Minister will face off this afternoon in the first of several votes within the Tory parliamentary party.
Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat and Suella Braverman will all be on the ballot tomorrow. Anyone who receives less than 30 votes will be eliminated.
The three clear favourites with bookmakers to be the next Prime Minister are now Sunak, Mordaunt and Truss.
Mordaunt said in her speech that she would run surplus annual budgets “over time”, launch a new Civil Defence Force, reform the civil service and bring in unspecified tax cuts.
“The British people are fed up. They are fed up with us not delivering, they are fed up with unfulfilled promises and they are fed up with divisive politics,” she said.
Yesterday saw rival camps get increasingly vicious as backers of Truss lined up to bash Sunak as he begins to look like the candidate to beat early on.
Truss now appears to be the most likely standard bearer for the right of the party after Priti Patel decided not to run yesterday, and after getting the endorsements of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries.
Rees-Mogg has launched a series of attacks on Sunak, and this morning the Brexit minister said he would not accept a job in a potential Sunak cabinet.
“I believe his behaviour towards Boris Johnson, his disloyalty, means that I could not possibly support him and he wouldn’t want me in his cabinet anyway,” he said.
“In cabinet, Liz was the most supportive cabinet minister in getting Brexit opportunities and was using her role and her chairmanship of cabinet committees to make sure we could get the Brexit opportunities through.
“She also opposed the endless tax rises of the former chancellor which I think have been economically damaging, I also was opposed to within cabinet.”