‘Part-Time Penny’ is lambasted by Cabinet colleagues as bid for No10 stumbles: Anne-Marie Trevelyan says other ministers had to ‘pick up the pieces’ while Mordaunt plotted leadership bid – and Nadine Dorries renews attack over gender stance

Penny Mordaunt came under heavy fire for going missing from her ministerial duties and her gender stance today as her push for No10 stumbles.

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused her junior minister of not being ‘available’ in recent months because she was plotting her leadership bid.

Ms Trevelyan – who has been backing Tom Tugendhat for PM – said colleagues were left to ‘pick up the pieces’ while Ms Mordaunt was distracted.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has renewed the attack on Ms Mordaunt over her stewardship of maternity legislation. 

Ms Dorries said she had a WhatsApp exchange with Ms Mordaunt where she ‘dismissed’ criticism for using ‘person’ in the text instead of ‘mother’ and ‘woman’. 

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused her junior minister of not being ‘available’ in recent months because she was plotting her leadership bid

Ms Mordaunt is struggling to keep her Tory leadership bid on track after surging to become an early bookies’ favourite

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has renewed the attack on Ms Mordaunt over her stewardship of maternity legislation

Today – A third ballot of Tory MPs will be held which will see the candidate with the lowest number of votes eliminated.

Tomorrow – More ballots will be held for the rest of the week until the list of contenders is whittled down to a final two.

Tuesday night – Sky News hosts the third and final leadership debate. 

21st July – MPs will head away from Westminster for their summer break, meaning this is the deadline for a final pairing to be decided in the parliamentary stage of the leadership election.

Late July and August – CCHQ will assume responsibility for leadership election and will send out ballot papers to around 200,000 Conservative Party members. The Tory grassroots will be asked to decide between the final two candidates, with hustings events to be held across the UK.

5th September –  The result of the membership ballot is announced, with the candidate receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote being declared the new Tory leader and Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister.

6th September – The new Tory leader is likely to be formally appointed as PM during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

7th September – The new PM is set to be quizzed in the House of Commons in their first ever Prime Minister’s Questions.

Asked in an interview on LBC radio whether Ms Mordaunt is not ‘strong on details’, Ms Trevelyan said: ‘We all do our jobs in different ways.

‘Understandably, perhaps, now it’s clear, Penny has for the last few months spent some of her time focused on preparing her leadership campaign, for which I have utmost respect, that’s how this system works.’

Ms Trevelyan told LBC Radio: ‘There have been a number of times when she hasn’t been available, which would have been useful, and other ministers have picked up the pieces.’

Ms Dorries posted on Twitter: ‘I have a whattsapp (sic) exchange from when I tried to reach out where Penny again, dismisses the issue of erasing the words ‘mother and woman’ and replacing with person instead urging me to focus not on that, but on the positives. 

‘I called her, she told me that the legal position re equalities act meant a woman could not be referred to as a woman or a mother in legislation. This was untrue.

‘I appealed to No10 to intervene. I believe that Liz and Kemi did the same thing. When Liz took over the portfolio and following further pressure from the Lords, the wording was altered.’

She added: ‘We all have different opinions on many issues, this doesn’t make them right or wrong or reasons for attacks, but rather points of debate in a thriving, civilised democracy.’ 

Conservative MPs will whittle the number of candidates down from five to four in the wake of the televised showdown that saw Rishi Sunak brand Liz Truss ‘Socialist’ for ignoring the need to balance the books, as she slated his tax hikes.

A snap poll by Opinium found that the former Chancellor emerged on top from the extraordinary blue-on-blue session on ITV, cementing his status as the front runner.

But Ms Truss seems to be gaining ground after a more assured performance, while Penny Mordaunt struggles to maintain her early momentum. Kemi Badenoch is also still giving a strong showing, with MPs due to decide within days which two candidates will go forward to a ballot of party members.

Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat is the favourite to be eliminated tonight, despite polling well among floating voters with his ‘clean start’ pitch.

It appears that was the last time the contenders will face off – because Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have signalled they probably will not take part in the scheduled Sky News debate tomorrow night. 

The 1,000 people surveyed by Opinium found that 24 per cent thought Mr Sunak came out on top in the debate, with Mr Tugendhat second on 19 per cent, Ms Mordaunt third on 17 per cent, narrowly ahead of Ms Truss on 15 per cent and Ms Badenoch’s 12 per cent.

Mr Sunak was also the choice of Tory voters, although the advantage was only 24 per cent to 21 per cent for Ms Mordaunt and 20 per cent for Ms Truss – a major improvement for the Foreign Secretary after her stuttering turn in the first debate.   

Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt (pictured left to right) clashed in the second televised Tory leader showdown last night

A snap poll by Opinium found that the former Chancellor emerged on top from the extraordinary blue-on-blue session on ITV, cementing his status as the front runner

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