A party for Penny as Tory leadership contest heats up

Penny Mordaunt enjoyed a ballot success within hours of launching her campaign this week

“It felt like more of a victory party than just another Westminster drinks,” said an attendee at the garden gathering on Wednesday evening. Still bubbling from her prime ministerial campaign launch earlier in the day, Penny Mordaunt enjoyed a glass of fizz as she chatted with supporters and posed for photographs.

She was attending a ‘Best of British’ themed summer party organised by the Team Lewis Foundation in Westminster Abbey’s College Garden. Revellers also posed with people dressed as Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear. But the star guest was the Conservative leadership contender.

She had reason to celebrate: she’s gone from being branded the dark horse of the contest to a comfortable second place behind former chancellor Rishi Sunak in the race to replace Boris Johnson.

As the former Defence Secretary moved round the guests, the high temperatures matched the high political drama. “It was full of PR types,” the same figure said, noting a throwback to Mordaunt’s background working in public relations firm Hanover, before she started her career in frontline politics.

But there were also business figures and plenty of MP supporters among the aides past and present.

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