Political news

Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt promoted to international development secretary

Work and Pensions minister Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as the British government's new international development secretary.

Ms Mordaunt, the minister for the disabled, has replaced Priti Patel following her resignation on Wednesday over unauthorised meetings with senior Israelis.

Like Ms Patel, she campaigned for Brexit in the EU referendum and her appointment will maintain the balance between Leavers and Remainers in the Cabinet.

Home Office minister Sarah Newton is promoted to take Ms Mordaunt's place at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Victoria Atkins, who entered Parliament in 2015, joins the British government for the first time as a new Home Office minister.

Ms Mordaunt made no comment to reporters as she left Downing Street following her meeting with Theresa May to head to her new department.

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.

"That means she must unequivocally commit to the spirit, as well as the letter, of Britain's pledge to spend 0.7% of national income on international development, and face down those in her party who want to merge DfID into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"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."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson also called on Ms Mordaunt to distance herself from her predecessor.

"Development aid is vital to saving lives, removing people from abject poverty, and improving the lives of others across the globe. The UK should be proud of the role we play.

"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."

The appointment of Ms Mordaunt was widely expected.

Her credentials as Brexiteer were underlined by her support for Andrea Leadsom in last year's Conservative leadership contest.

When Ms Leadsom pulled out, leaving Mrs May to become prime minister, Ms Mordaunt was moved sideways from her previous position as armed forces minister to work and pensions.

First elected to Parliament as MP for Portsmouth North in 2010, Ms Mordaunt (44) achieved ministerial rank under David Cameron between 2014 and 2016 and was appointed minister for disabled people when Theresa May took power last year.

She is best known to the public for donning her swimsuit in the TV show Splash! in 2014, when she joined celebrities to be trained in diving by Olympian Tom Daley.

The daughter of a paratrooper-turned-teacher, she is a Royal Navy reservist, serving as an acting sub-lieutenant of the Portsmouth-based HMS King Alfred.

Her appointment was welcomed by aid charities, who said she would be able to draw on her experience working in hospitals and orphanages in Romania as a student after the 1989 revolution.

Born in Torquay as one of twins, Ms Mordaunt moved with her family to Portsmouth at the age of two.

Her teacher mother died from breast cancer when she was 15.

Educated at a local comprehensive, she worked as a magician's assistant before studying drama at the Victoryland Theatre School and philosophy at Reading University.

She was Conservative head of youth under Sir John Major and worked in William Hague's press office during his leadership, as well as in the 2004 election campaign of US president George W Bush.

She also made a career in communications, business and charity, becoming director of Diabetes UK.

Ms Mordaunt failed in her first attempt at the Portsmouth North seat in 2005, but overturned Labour's majority to enter Parliament in 2010 and increased her share of the vote in each of the following polls.

She became a junior communities minister in 2014 and was then appointed the first female defence minister for the armed forces in UK history in 2015, and backed Andrea Leadsom in her unsuccessful bid to succeed Mr Cameron last year.

She was only the second woman in Elizabeth II's reign to propose the loyal address in reply to the Queen's Speech.

But she was also once accused of trivialising Parliament after admitting she had smuggled repeated mentions of the word "c**k" into a Commons speech as part of a bet with fellow reservists.

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