Penny Mordaunt adds women and equalities to ministerial role

International development secretary is fourth MP to take on the responsibilities in two years

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has added women and equalities to her brief – although it does not necessarily sit neatly with her main role.

The job has changed hands four times in two years. Amber Rudd, who resigned as home secretary on Sunday, had only been tasked with the additional role since the former education secretary Justine Greening left the government in the January reshuffle.

The Women’s Equality party said the repeated appointments showed the brief had “repeatedly been treated as of secondary importance by the Conservatives, passed around like an inconvenient add-on rather than being treated with the seriousness that it deserves and needs”.

The role may yet be a time-consuming one, with plans to update the Gender Recognition Act to ease the process for trans people to legally change their gender, a pledge originally made by Greening.

Mordaunt is a well-liked and opinionated Brexiter who had been in the frame for promotion for some time before replacing Priti Patel at the Department for International Development (DfID), though her armed forces background both as a Royal Navy reservist and minister meant many thought she would have been better suited replacing Michael Fallon as defence secretary.

She has been an outspoken champion of widening participation for women in the armed forces, once telling a cheeky anecdote in the Commons about sitting through a naval training session on how to care for your penis and testicles in the field.

On LGBT issues, there is relatively little on the public record, though she backed equal marriage in 2013, and as minister for the armed forces ordered a pilot project to explore registering Ministry of Defence sites for same-sex unions.

She came to wider public prominence with her participation in ITV’s celebrity diving competition Splash!, in which she only managed a belly flop but donated £7,000 of her fee to the renovation of a lido in her Portsmouth North constituency.

Like her predecessor Patel, Mordaunt was an enthusiastic leave campaigner and caused a damaging split within the Conservative party after a controversial appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, when she incorrectly suggested Britain would not have a veto on Turkey joining the EU.


Jessica Elgot Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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