Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt

My last-but-one Daily Paradox, The Curse of Brexit, brought many cries of anguish and agreement. They, like me, felt Britain was at the bottom of the trough with nothing but a precipice to jump into. So it may be encouraging that I see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s way ahead yet, perhaps, but it is sparkling and it is making no bones about its source of inspiration. The star is Penny Mordaunt, very recently appointed British Cabinet Minister for Defence. Talk to her and, if you are old enough, you may think you are talking to a follower of Margaret Thatcher.

I’ve met Penny Mordaunt but so briefly that she wouldn’t remember me from a post on the rifle range. Not given to excessive smiling, certainly not for the cameras, she has a serious disposition, an earnestness that would be good to see in other politicians. When she does smile it is with sincerity and it tends to be personal, not political. I am sure she is ambitious – you don’t go into politics if you aren’t – but I think she is full of good intentions, too. Could she be the next British Prime Minister, or the next-but-one?

Oh I do hope so. Students of British Politics know that the British Government goes soft for years. Niceness is nice and Britain is a very fair, developed country, perhaps fairer than most. Trouble is, fairness and niceness cost money and endless building of unsustainable debt does nothing for character of person or nation. All it does is keep in power the people who are bent on bankruptcy. Sooner or later the days of wine and roses have to come to an end. In Margaret Thatcher’s case, sadly violently and painfully – but reluctance to change has its payback.

The days of wine and roses started to unravel when David Cameron joked about his youth in the garden of No 10 Downing Street and he and the head of the other party then thought to be slightly viable shared power. A coalition of the frivolous was bound to lead to tears. Perhaps that round of games is over. Perhaps Penny Mordaunt, in her present capacity, can see that our Services are equipped with planes for the carrier that just cost billions – it has none at present as I understand it. Perhaps we can take a sensible view of our world commitments neither ignoring history nor dreaming of fanciful power positions in a totally changed world. Maybe she could even grasp the nettle of Brexit and decide what to do. That would be one for the scoreboard.

Most important of all, maybe she could reignite in the British the creative determination that allows the enterprising to flourish without the guilt of success that has grown like a mould over every attempt to shine. Maybe she could be tough on corruption, something the British used to keep under control but that is now seen as smart not shameful. Maybe she could inspire rather than threaten, have a point of view and make it stick, bring on the new generation who are perfectly well able to cope with AI and a new world. Could she let them do it?

My wish list for Penny Mordaunt is [1] that she establish the rules of Cabinet with enough gumption that members of it obey them [2] that she identifies the policies that will make a modern society work rather than depend on the shibboleths of an outdated Conservative Party [3] that she gives her Cabinet Ministers – when they behave properly – the stature and freedom to establish and live their roles with dignity and flexibility [4] that she lead in a way that will make the rough diamond leaders in the world wish they had the same finesse [5] that she avoid the arrogance of office and success and demonstrate that humble is powerful.

Guessing politics is dafter than guessing nobbled horse races. But I wish Penny Mordaunt every support and all courage to go for it. She seems to have the guts.

My money’s on Mordaunt.