Penny who? Only 11% of public can name Tory hopeful Mordaunt

Penny who? Just 11% of the public can name surprise Tory leadership hopeful Mordaunt when shown a photo of her, new polls finds… (and two people mistook her for ADELE!)

  • Only one-tenth of voters are able to correctly name Penny Mordaunt, poll finds
  • Two respondents even mistake the Tory MP for singer Adele when shown a photo
  • The 49-year-old has become the second-placed candidate to become PM 

Only one-tenth of voters were able to correctly name Penny Mordaunt when shown a photo of the Tory leadership candidate – while some even mistook her for singer Adele, a survey has found.

The trade minister has surprised many Westminster observers by becoming the second-placed candidate in the contest to replace Boris Johnson.

Ms Mordaunt was today backed by 67 Tory MPs in a first round of voting, as the party seeks a new leader to replace the outgoing Prime Minister.

This put her only behind frontrunner Rishi Sunak in the contest to win the support of the Tory parliamentary party.

But, despite the growing momentum behind her among MPs, Ms Mordaunt appears to have her work cut out to make herself familiar with the public and even Conservative voters.

A new poll from Savanta/ComRes found that just 11 per cent of the public could correctly name Ms Mordaunt when shown a photo of the 49-year-old.

When only the responses of those who backed the Tories at the 2019 general election were considered, the proportion who could name Ms Mordaunt rose to just 16 per cent.

Penny Mordaunt was today backed by 67 Tory MPs in a first round of voting, as the party seeks a new leader to replace Boris Johnson

When people were shown a photo of Ms Mordaunt as part of a survey, two of them said it was singer Adele

A new poll from Savanta/ComRes found that just 11 per cent of the public could correctly name Ms Mordaunt

Her closest rivals in the Tory leadership contest – ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – were unsurprisingly much more familiar to the public than Ms Mordaunt.

Mr Sunak, who was Treasury chief until as recently as last week and who led the Government’s economic response to the Covid crisis, was recognised by two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public.

This rose to 77 per cent among Conservative voters only.

Ms Truss, who has taken one of the leading roles in Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was recognised by one-third (33 per cent) of the public, whioch rose to 45 per cent among Conservative voters only.

In the survey, respondents were shown the official parliamentary portrait of the Tory leadership candidates and asked to answer: ‘Who is this person?’

They were also given a ‘don’t know’ option.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta/ComRes, revealed that when people were shown a photo of Ms Mordaunt, two of them said it was singer Adele.

Mr Hopkins also revealed another respondent put the response: ‘Penelope Mordaunt (gorgeous).’

The survey was conducted between Friday and Sunday, with 2,208 British adults asked for their responses.

They were asked to identify the 11 confirmed or rumoured Tory leadership candidates that were widely expected to be in this week’s contest.

The field of candidates has now slimmed to six after today’s first round of voting among MPs.

The trade minister has surprised many Westminster observers by becoming the second-placed candidate in Tory leadership contest

Ms Mordaunt enjoys the backing of senior Brexiteers such as Dame Andrea Leadsom (pictured) and David Davis

Ms Mordaunt, who has previously held two Cabinet roles, was this morning grilled about the public’s lack of familiarity with her as she held a campaign event in Westminster.

She was also quizzed about a description of her as ‘Theresa May with bigger hair’. 

‘I would like to know you all better and I hope I will get the opportunity to,’ she replied as she ignored the jibe about her hairdo.

The Portsmouth North MP, a Royal Navy reservist, was born in Devon and has previously told MPs how she was named after HMS Penelope –  the first cruiser able to do a complete about-turn within her own length.

She has two brothers, one of whom is her twin. Her mother died of breast cancer when Ms Mordaunt was 15.

Earlier in her life, she worked in a factory and also as a magician’s assistant – which saw her sawn in half in hotel ballrooms – while she spent a gap year working in hospitals and orphanages in Romania in the aftermath of the 1989 revolution.

She studied at Reading university and worked for the Conservative Party under John Major and William Hague, as well as taking a job for the Freight Transport Association.

Ms Mordaunt also had a spell working on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.

She was first elected to Parliament at the 2010 election and became Armed Forces minister after the 2015 election.

A year before her appointment as a minister, Ms Mordaunt, who is divorced, was a reality TV contestant on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash!.

She is a committed Brexiteer and played a prominent role in the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. 

In 2019 she became the first woman to be appointed defence secretary before being sacked from the role by Mr Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2019.

Some viewed her sacking as punishment for Ms Modaunt’s backing for Mr Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt in the 2019 Tory leadership contest. 

Before taking on the defence brief, Ms Mordaunt had previously been international development secretary under Theresa May. 

She counts actress Angela Lansbury among her relatives.

Ms Mordaunt backed Mr Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt in the 2019 Tory leadership contest


A year before her appointment as a minister, Ms Mordaunt was a reality TV contestant on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash!

The 49-year-old was first elected to Parliament at the 2010 election and became Armed Forces minister after the 2015 election

Ms Mordaunt’s campaign for the Tory leadership got off to a rocky start at the weekend when she was forced to hit back at critics trying to depict her as ‘woke’.

She was accused of being ‘a committed warrior for the trans lobby’ as opponents focussed on her past claim that ‘trans women are women’. 

Ms Mordaunt insisted she had ‘fought for women’s rights all my life’ as she dismissed the criticism.

The official announcement of her candidacy also made headlines for the wrong reasons when her campaign launch video was revealed to include footage of killer Oscar Pistorius.

A clip of the former paralympian, now a convicted murderer, from London 2012 was swiftly edited out.

But, despite the early setbacks, Ms Mordaunt has quickly garnered momentum as the Tory leadership contest heats up.

She is the clear favourite of the Tory membership according to several other polls, which show she could beat Mr Sunak in a final run-off.

At her packed campaign launch in Westminster this morning – where seats were adorned with fliers bearing her face – Ms Mordaunt referenced her background as a Royal Navy reservist.

She vowed to return to traditional Conservative values of ‘low tax, small state and personal responsibility’.

Ms Mordaunt also tried to woo MPs by offering them ‘social capital pots’ to spend in their constituencies.

It was her continued attempts to pushback at critcs of her trans comments that won her the loudest applause.

‘I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said ”Every prime minister needs a Willie”. A woman like me doesn’t have one,’ she said.

Ms Mordaunt warned other Tory leadership hopefuls that they are right to perceive her as a ‘threat to their campaign’.

Her campaign enjoys the backing of senior Brexiteers such as Dame Andrea Leadsom and David Davis. 

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