Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt promoted to Cabinet after Priti Patel resigns
The minister for the disabled has replaced Priti Patel following her resignation on Wednesday.
Theresa May has maintained the delicate Cabinet balance between Leavers and Remainers as she replaced Priti Patel with another hardline Brexiteer.
Penny Mordaunt, the minister for the disabled, was promoted to become the new International Development Secretary following Ms Patel’s dramatic resignation on Wednesday.
In her second emergency mini-reshuffle in the space of a week, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to promote two other women MPs.
Victoria Atkins became the first of the 2015 intake of new Conservative MPs to enter the Government, becoming a junior Home Office minister.
She replaced Sarah Newton who moves to take over Ms Mordaunt’s responsibilities at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Downing Street will hope the appointments restore some stability after the turmoil of recent weeks which saw Sir Michael Fallon forced to resign over allegations of improper conduct.
In particular the choice of Ms Mordaunt as International Development Secretary will be seen a signal to reassure hardline Brexiteers that there will be no back-pedalling.
Like Ms Patel – who was forced to quit over her unauthorised contacts with senior Israelis – she was a high-profile campaigner for Leave in last year’s referendum.
She underlined her pro-Brexit credentials by backing Andrea Leadsom in the subsequent Conservative leadership contest.
Following the announcement, Ms Patel tweeted her support for her successor, congratulating her “dear friend” on her appointment.
Opposition parties however questioned Ms Mordaunt’s commitment to the international aid agenda and urged her to distance herself from the legacy of her predecessor who was highly critical of some aid programmes.
For Labour, shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor said: “The new Secretary of State faces an immediate challenge of restoring integrity to British international development policy after the actions of Priti Patel.
“Unlike Priti Patel, who too often used the department to prop up her personal networks and leadership ambitions, Mordaunt must also quickly commit to the central cause of the department: to help the world’s poorest.”
Is that Penny Mordaunt I see standing next to Priti Patel promising to ensure £350m extra per week goes to the NHS? We look forward to seeing her use her new cabinet post to make it happen. pic.twitter.com/eZH1PoJIBk— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) November 9, 2017
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson said: “Having an International Development Secretary who does not dismiss the entire concept of international aid must be the first qualification for the job.
“Penny Mordaunt must immediately distance herself from her predecessor in this regard.”
There was anger also among Remain campaigners who criticised controversial comments she made during the referendum suggesting the UK could not veto Turkey joining the EU.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna said: “This is the same minister who falsely claimed Turkey was about to join the EU. Words fail me.”
There was, however, a welcome for her appointment from within the aid community, with Romilly Greenhill of the ONE campaign, saying a past stint as an aid worker in Romania meant she was “well suited” to the role.
“Her recent advice to not let pessimism and cynicism distract us from eradicating the problems that cause poverty and disease resonates with the British public and our 500,000 members, many of them our own dedicated youth ambassadors.” Ms Greenhill said.
Asked if she was joining a Cabinet “in chaos”, Ms Mordaunt said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed by the Prime Minister to be the new Secretary of State for International Development.
“I’m looking forward to working with the team here to continue building a safer, more secure, more prosperous world for us all and really giving the British public pride in what we do.”