Penny Mordaunt put Lady Thatcher centre stage in her campaign launch today. The favourite among grassroots members said that it was watching the Falklands task force leave from Portsmouth Harbour as a nine-year-old girl that shaped her political career: “Witnessing [the task force], and Thatcher’s resolve at the time, well I knew that my country stood up to bullies,” she said.
“I knew that was important,” she added, “important enough for some of those warships, and my classmate’s fathers, not to return home.” Mordaunt is not the only rival to invoke the spirit of Thatcher in her leadership campaign. In his pitch, Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor, said he would be like Thatcher in his handling of the economy while another rival, Kemi Badenoch, is being hailed as Thatcher 2.0 by her supporters.
As expected, Mordaunt promised low tax, small government and personal responsibility – “the good old stuff,” she said, comparing these measures to what the crowd wanted at Paul McCartney’s Glastonbury set.
But Mordaunt, dubbed by one diarist unkindly as Theresa May but with bigger hair, also promised to modernize government and “to move at the speed that business and science needs us to.”
Top priority was her new family policy, creating personal budgets, to give “every child access to their entitlements to subsidised childcare,” as well as creating task forces to deal with NHS and dental “paralysis” and stagnation in housebuilding.
Further embracing Thatcher, Mordaunt committed to increasing defence spending, and also pledged to create a “civil defence force” to take strain off of the armed forces.
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Despite currently standing in second place in the contest, Mordaunt’s successful launch places her on a good footing – especially against Liz Truss, who will be hoping to catch up from seven supporters behind.
As she put it herself, “I am the candidate that Labour fear the most.” And the one that her rivals fear most too as she snaps at the heels of Sunak.