10 July 2022

Penny Mordaunt: a Prime Minister for unity, prosperity and security


The Platinum Jubilee weekend last month showed Britain at its very best. As a billion people round the world watched the Jubilee pageant, we came together to celebrate a vibrant, diverse, optimistic nation – drawing on our past to inspire the next generation with the promise of a brighter future. It rekindled the spirit of London 2012 – celebrating the ‘new Elizabethan’ era of a diverse, post-imperial Britain and redefining our place in the world as a champion of opportunity, innovation and global responsibility through a modern Commonwealth. 

This is the spirit the Conservative Party needs to rediscover – and quickly. The spirit of Mo Farah wrapping himself proudly in the union flag, of Adele, Lewis Hamilton, Tim Peake, Stella McCartney, and the volunteers who defined London 2012 – all of whom exemplified a dynamic, creative and modern patriotism. 

This isn’t about redebating Brexit. The people have spoken. We are all Brexiteers now. The challenge is to end the division and build a majority coalition for the opportunities of a more global Britain.  

For all Boris’ obvious strengths as a campaigner and instinctive leader, who will be rightly remembered by history as having got the big calls right on Ukraine, the vaccine and breaking the Brexit deadlock with a negotiated deal, he hasn’t been able to convert an 80-seat majority into a stable government capable of commanding public support. The nation sits deeply divided, anxious for reassurance, and desperate for delivery on the core mission of the 2019 election: taking back control and ensuring no person, or place, is left behind.

The Conservative Party now has to choose a leader who can deliver three key things: unity, prosperity and security. They go hand in hand. 

Unity comes first

A divided party can never reunite the country. We can never carry public support to deliver serious reform while fighting each other. Brexit is done. But some want to reopen the debate. We need two candidates to put to the members who were authentic Brexiteers for the right reasons. Two candidates committed to end the culture wars and seek to reunite our great nation. To show a Conservatism which is confident and generous. We need to stop attacking Scottish, Welsh and Irish voters who yearn for greater freedom (don’t we all?), and instead show them that a strong, prosperous and secure United Kingdom in a dangerous world is the only way to have it. To use a rugby metaphor, we need to be the British Lions of politics who inspire and unite by drawing on our shared heritage. 


With a deepening cost of living crisis, and the looming spectre of stagflation, we need to unleash enterprise and unlock investment to get back the growth, opportunity and prosperity. We have fallen from the fastest growing to the slowest growing economy in the G7. That requires bold economic reform with a fiscally responsible package of ‘start-up Britain’ tax cuts for enterprise and investment in high growth businesses. Fast.  


In an increasingly dangerous world, we can’t take our security for granted. The savage Russian attack on Ukraine has shown how real and present a danger the new Kremlin presents, and how complacently the West squandered the post-Cold War ‘dividend’. In the Middle East and China, we face growing threats. Not just militarily – but to the integrity of our satellite communications and data systems, our intellectual property, our industrial assets, supply chains and critical national infrastructure. We need a Prime Minister who doesn’t just understand these threats, but has the experience in leadership positions to tackle them. 

Penny Mordaunt and George Freeman

The challenge may be huge. But so is the opportunity. The UK is a powerhouse of science, technology and innovation. By embracing the deregulatory opportunities of Brexit, embracing bold tax and policy reforms to stimulate enterprise, investment and global trade, we could make the UK the workshop of the 4th Industrial Revolution. This means harnessing our expertise in life science, agri-tech, artificial intelligence, fusion energy, quantum computing, satellite manufacturing and cleantech. 

I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it and done it my 15-year career in technology venture capital and 12 years in various roles on the front bench. The UK Life Science Industrial Strategy I led in 2012 has led to £10billon of venture capital investment, £10billion of pharma investment and £6bn of exports. This left the UK perfectly positioned to sequence the Covid genome and thus develop the vaccine.  Imagine if we did that in fusion, quantum, space and industrial biotech. 

Get it right and we can deliver a serious new ‘white heat of Technology’ era to power a golden age of investment, growth and global security.  

This is a core theme of the book I co-wrote in 2017 with 40 Conservative MPs. The Conservative Party is rich in Parliamentary talent. Sadly, Boris Johnson didn’t draw on it. The key to leadership is to assemble a team who embody a clear mission with a strong policy programme that tackles the big issues of the day. For me there is one outstanding team player candidate who can deliver that – Penny Mordaunt.

The right woman for the job

Her CV is truly unique. With a successful career in industry, service in the armed forces, and on the frontline of global diplomacy as Defence Secretary and International Development Secretary, Penny has the experience to deal with the security and economic issues that face us now. A brilliant performer at the despatch box, who also ‘talks human’ and shines on media, she is a natural communicator at ease with voters on the streets of Portsmouth, Preston, or Ponteland. 

Moreover, she was a one-nation, unity Brexiteer from the very beginning.

If anyone can deliver the unity, prosperity and security this country so urgently needs it is Penny Mordaunt. She has the values, standards and traditions of an outward looking, confident, modern, progressive United Kingdom in her DNA. 

That’s why today I’m declaring for her. It’s time to end the division and embrace a one-nation conservatism of unity, prosperity and security. In this platinum jubilee year, we need a Prime Minister committed to national renewal in the spirit of the Jubilee we celebrated last month. I believe Penny Mordaunt is dazzlingly well equipped to be the change we urgently need. 

CapX is publishing editorials on a number of Tory leadership candidates. We are not endorsing any specific campaign.

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George Freeman MP is the former Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Minister for Life Sciences (2014-16), Minister for the Future of Transport (2019-20), Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board (2016-17), founder of The Big Tent Foundation and author of Britain Beyond Brexit.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.