Penny Mordaunt accused of ‘throwing trans people under the bus’ as she enters Tory race to replace Boris Johnson
Penny Mordaunt has been accused of ‘throwing trans people under the bus’ after a midnight Twitter thread posted hours before launching her Tory leadership bid.
he Portsmouth North MP sought to address her position on trans rights after criticism from right-wingers who claim her preview comments on the issue threaten her chances of replacing Boris Johnson.
While serving as equalities minister in 2018, Ms Mordaunt said “trans women are women and trans men are men” and pledged to do more so that “LGBT people can thrive in the UK”.
On Saturday, as speculation mounted about her potential leadership bid, campaign group Conservatives for Women branded the MP “a committed warrior for the trans lobby”, adding her apparently supportive views “raise questions over her judgment”.
In response, Ms Mordaunt took to social media the same night to answer a question written out in large capital letters: “Do I know what a woman is?”
“I am biologically a woman,” she wrote. “If I have a hysterectomy or mastectomy, I am still a woman. And I am legally a woman.
“Some people born male and who have been through the gender recognition process are also legally female. That DOES NOT mean they are biological women, like me.”
The thread went on to list her “track record” of work on “gender equality”, including launching an inquiry into a surge in girls referred to trans services and changing maternity legislation to use female – instead of gender netural – terms.
In the same thread she criticised what she called ‘the trans orthodoxy’ and praised Sharron Davies, who has faced accusations of ‘transphobia’ after she came out against trans athletes competing in women’s sporting events.
“Some want to damage my reputation for whatever reason,” the MP wrote. “They want to depict me as ‘woke’’’”
“I’ve fought for women’s rights all my life. I would NEVER do anything to undermine them. I will continue to protect them.
“And those that purport to be champions of women while misrepresenting and undermining them might like to think again.”
The thread met with backlash from LGBT supporters on Twitter and claims her attempt to draw a line under the issue had backfired.
Author and activist Christine Burns MBE wrote: “A study of QTs to Penny Mordaunt’s desperate anti-trans tweet indicates that she’s pleased very few.
“She’s not pleased anyone who wants to hear about actual issues. And she’s not pleased the transphobes who just recall what she’s said before. She’s actually REDUCED her support.”
Political commentator Owen Jones added: “Penny Mordaunt has gone from rightly comparing transphobia to the old anti-gay moral panic to throwing trans people under a bus to advance her own career.”
Other Tory leadership hopefuls were asked about their views on trans rights on Sunday.
Tom Tugendhat, asked if he believed trans women are women, and trans men and men, said the question showed why the debate had to “move on” from a “sledgehammer” approach.
He said: “It’s really easy to make division where we need unity. A woman is an adult human female, but that doesn’t mean in any way that trans woman have any less respect of any fewer rights.”
Mr Tugendhat added: “We must never take away what it means to be a biological women, but we must respect people who are in a different gender identity.”
Asked the same question Grant Shapps told Sky News: “If there is a Shapps administration, I will not be spending most of my time on these kinds of issues.
“I think we owe everybody love and respect. There’s clearly a biological basis upon your birth. But when people want [to] transition gender, that is their choice. They’ll always have support from me.”
Ms Mordaunt has launched her bid to be Conservative Party leader with a bombastic video set to the patriotic rugby anthem World in Union.
The unusual video shared on Twitter featured Boris Johnson saying “Let’s get Brexit done”, and claimed the Tories “more often” reflect Britain’s values than Labour.
Ms Mordaunt concluded the clip by saying: “Our leadership has to change. It needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship.”
It brings to nine the number of Tories who have so far put themselves forward to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, just days after a collapse in party support forced his resignation.
Former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have both pledged to slash corporation tax as they announced separate bids for the Tory leadership.
It comes after two serving Cabinet ministers, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, revealed their intention to run for the top job in the space of an hour.
Declaring their candidacies in The Telegraph, Mr Hunt and Mr Javid both said they would not only scrap the former chancellor’s plans to raise corporation tax from 19pc to 25pc in April, but reduce the rate to 15pc.
Mr Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Mr Johnson was at the helm of the Government.
Mr Zahawi, Rishi Sunak’s successor, had said earlier this week that “everything is on the table” when questioned over the corporation tax rise.
The leadership contenders’ timescales for the change are different, with Mr Hunt slashing the tax to 15p in his first autumn Budget, while Mr Javid would set a “glide path”.
Mr Javid also said he would scrap the Government’s controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further “significant” temporary reduction on fuel duty.
The pair spelled out their economic plans in separate interviews with the newspaper.
In addition to cutting corporation tax, Mr Hunt said he would remove business rates for five years for the communities most in need.
Most of those areas are in the so-called “Red Wall” of traditional Labour heartlands, the newspaper said, with a quarter of locations in England and Wales in line for the tax break.
Scotland and Northern Ireland would get money to match the policy.
“What matters is wealth creation, which means that people don’t feel that they need to leave a Bolton or a Bolsover because they can get better jobs in Manchester or London. They can actually stay there,” Mr Hunt said.
“That means helping them have opportunities at home that makes talented people want to stay, not go.”
Meanwhile, he pledged to continue pushing legislation to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol through Parliament.
Mr Javid said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures – including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills – and a “longer-term” vision for tax reform.
He said: “The Government can’t prevent the impact of high price rises on everyone. You can’t mitigate everything.
“The long way out of this, the better way, is to turbo growth. I’ve always believed in free markets, in low taxation, in light regulation, as the conditions that are necessary for growth.
“It was true 20 to 30 years ago, it was true under Margaret Thatcher, and it’s true now, because it’s how economies grow and how they work.”
Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that after “careful consideration” and discussion with colleagues and family, he would not stand to be party leader and the next prime minister.
In addition to Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Mr Zahawi, Mr Shapps and Mr Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have launched their own bids.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also widely expected to stand, with the Mail on Sunday reporting she will seek to advocate “classic Conservative principles”, and could declare her candidature as soon as Monday.
Another potential front-runner is trade minister Penny Mordaunt.
Ms Mordaunt has heavily suggested she will throw her hat in the ring, sharing an article on Saturday night from Dr Gerard Lyons, Mr Johnson’s former chief economic adviser as London mayor, which states she would make a “great prime minister”.
She also pushed back against those who may want to depict her as “woke” in a Twitter thread early on Sunday morning, as she sought to clarify how she would define a woman.
It was reported on Saturday that Mr Johnson intends to stand down as Prime Minister on Monday in order to run again for Tory leader.
But this suggestion was knocked down by a spokesperson for Mr Johnson as completely untrue.
Tory MP Mark Francois has said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward.
He told GB News: “It looks like this is going to be the Grand National but without the fences, so we are probably heading for at least a dozen candidates at the moment.”
Launching his campaign, Mr Zahawi pledged to lower taxes for individuals, families and business, boost defence spending, and continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role.
Mr Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis.
Ms Badenoch announced a plan for a smaller state and a Government “focused on the essentials”.
Mr Sunak launched his leadership bid with the message: “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.”
Former minister Steve Baker has thrown his support behind Ms Braverman’s campaign, despite previously saying he was seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.
The Attorney General has pledged to “move heaven and earth to get this country back on track”, writing in The Telegraph on Saturday that her views on Brexit are “as much a part of me as my DNA”, and advocating a reduction to planned tax hikes “that are putting off investment”.
As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they “don’t knock lumps out of each other”.