Penny Mordaunt condemned for ‘dodgy judgment’ after flouting No 10 ban to meet boycotted group

Penny Mordaunt last night faced fresh questions over her judgment for meeting a controversial Muslim group – despite it being subject to a government boycott.

The Tory leadership hopeful was a minister when she met the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

In 2009, the Government introduced a policy of ‘not engaging’ with the group after comments by its deputy secretary-general which were interpreted as condoning attacks on British troops.

Miss Mordaunt tweeted in February last year that it was ‘great’ to have met the MCB’s first female secretary-general, Zara Mohammed, and said she was ‘looking forward to working with her’.

Penny Mordaunt (pictured) last night faced fresh questions over her judgment for meeting a controversial Muslim group ¿ despite it being subject to a government boycott

Penny Mordaunt (pictured) last night faced fresh questions over her judgment for meeting a controversial Muslim group – despite it being subject to a government boycott

The encounter infuriated ministers, and No 10 is understood to have asked her to take the post down, but the tweet was still live yesterday.

Miss Mordaunt’s decision to sit down with the MCB in defiance of the Government’s boycott was last night described as ‘perplexing’, and government sources questioned her suitability for high office following the extraordinary meeting.

One said: ‘The longer this campaign goes on, the more Penny’s dodgy judgment is being exposed. Do MPs really want more stuff like this coming out if she’s in No 10?’

Another source said: ‘There are only two explanations for her decision: either she was unaware of the government ban on the MCB, or she didn’t care. Neither covers her in glory.

‘Surely she had been a minister long enough to know about the ban – unless, of course, she is as incompetent as Lord Frost says she is.’

Former Brexit minister Lord Frost, who worked with Miss Mordaunt on negotiations with the EU, last week said he had ‘grave concerns’ about the prospect of her becoming prime minister.

The Tory leadership hopeful was a minister when she met the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), pictured, Zara Mohammed

The Tory leadership hopeful was a minister when she met the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), pictured, Zara Mohammed

In other developments:

  • Last night’s fiery debate on ITV saw Liz Truss take a swipe at Rishi Sunak over his manifesto-breaking tax rise, admitting that she might not be the ‘slickest’ of the candidates – but pointedly saying that at least she keeps her promises;
  • MPs will today stage a third round of voting, which will whittle down the number of contenders to four;
  • A survey found Miss Truss would beat both Mr Sunak and Miss Mordaunt if she gets into the final two;
  • It emerged that Miss Mordaunt posted a message on Twitter in 2019 which appeared to praise a demonstration by controversial eco-protesters Extinction Rebellion;
  • Miss Mordaunt’s official Instagram account yesterday shared a post, claiming that ‘Rishi back-stabbed the boss to get his job’ and ‘Liz is the boss’s puppet’;
  • A leading think-tank calculated that soaring inflation means the Treasury is set to take £60 billion more in taxes by 2025 than it is currently predicting, giving more scope for tax cuts;
  • Kemi Badenoch today pledges to stop the police intervening in Twitter spats so they have more time to investigate burglaries;
  • Tory donor Lord Cruddas threatened to cut off the party’s funding in protest at Mr Sunak’s betrayal of Boris Johnson.
Miss Mordaunt tweeted in February last year that it was ¿great¿ to have met the MCB¿s first female secretary-general, Zara Mohammed, and said she was ¿looking forward to working with her¿

Miss Mordaunt tweeted in February last year that it was ‘great’ to have met the MCB’s first female secretary-general, Zara Mohammed, and said she was ‘looking forward to working with her’

The MCB claims to be the UK’s main ‘national representative Muslim body’, but has been criticised as not being reflective of the Muslim community.

After meeting Mrs Mohammed in February 2021, Miss Mordaunt, who was then Paymaster General, tweeted: ‘Great to have met with Zara today, to wish her success and hear more about her plans, look forward to working with her.’

The reasons behind the official boycott 

Gordon Brown’s Labour government severed ties with the Muslim Council of Britain after a senior member of the group signed a controversial statement interpreted as condoning attacks on British forces.

The MCB’s deputy secretary-general, Daud Abdullah, backed a declaration in 2009 which called for acts of violence against Israel.

It followed a meeting in Istanbul of global Muslim leaders to discuss how to respond to Israel’s attacks on Gaza. The so-called Istanbul Declaration read: ‘The obligation of the Islamic Nation [is] to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.’

In response, Hazel Blears, who was then the communities secretary, wrote to the council calling on Mr Abdullah to resign and saying that the Government was ‘suspending engagement’ with the group.

At the time, supporters insisted Miss Mordaunt had met the group in a personal capacity as a constituency MP, rather than on behalf of the Government. But a government spokesman said at the time that it had a ‘long-standing policy of not engaging with the MCB and that has not changed’.

The last Labour government cut ties with the MCB after one of its leading members signed a controversial declaration.

In 2009, the MCB’s deputy secretary general, Daud Abdullah, signed a declaration that was interpreted as calling for violence against Israel and condoning attacks on British forces. At the time, then prime minister Gordon Brown had offered Royal Navy resources to stop weapons being smuggled in to the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Miss Mordaunt is a Royal Navy reservist, a former minister for the Armed Forces and a former defence secretary.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘It is perplexing that a minister chose to meet with the Muslim Council of Britain at a time when her own Government was blacklisting the organisation due to ongoing concerns.

‘It certainly raises questions for Penny Mordaunt, and the Jewish community will be interested in her answers.’

Lord Mann, the independent adviser to the Government on anti-Semitism, said: ‘Ministers are always well advised to ask advice before they stumble into these problems.

‘Ministers who don’t ask for advice take unnecessary risks.’

Miss Mordaunt did not respond to requests for a response last night. The MCB declined to comment.

Her record in government came under the spotlight again yesterday, with former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is backing Miss Truss, saying: ‘I don’t know what her achievements are.’

And a senior soldier said she was the worst defence secretary he had worked with because she ‘couldn’t take a decision’.

Penny on trans U-turn row: I’m a victim of smears 

By Claire Ellitcott, Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail 

Penny Mordaunt claimed she was the victim of ‘smears’ yesterday after facing questions over a document suggesting she had changed her position on transgender issues.

The Tory leadership contender tried to dismiss scrutiny of her previous views on the subject after she said she had never supported ‘gender self-identification’ – the belief a person should be able to decide their gender identity without any medical requirements.

Leaked documents suggest that when she was equalities minister, Miss Mordaunt was in favour of removing at least one part of the medical process required for a person to legally change their gender.

But in the first TV leadership debate on Friday, she rejected claims she had ever pursued a policy of self-identification.

How she showed support for Extinction Rebellion protests 

A demonstration by Extinction Rebellion won a humorous message of apparent support from leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt.

Miss Mordaunt shared a video of activists dancing in sync to the 1977 Bee Gees hit Stayin’ Alive on the streets of Melbourne, Australia.

Alongside the clip from Australia in October 2019, Miss Mordaunt referenced the antics of the British protesters and said: ‘Ha, I see your giant pink octopus, you’ve glued yourself to the tarmac, your fake blood-loaded fire engine and I raise you… this.’

Mob mentality: Protesters dancing in the street in Melbourne in 2019

Mob mentality: Protesters dancing in the street in Melbourne in 2019

The MP for Portsmouth North added supportive hashtags to her message, including ‘now that’s what I call a protest’ and the tongue-in-cheek ‘Civil Disco-bedience’.

Extinction Rebellion carried out a string of demonstrations in London in the summer and autumn of 2019.

A week before Miss Mordaunt’s tweet, the campaign group used a fire engine to spray fake blood over the Treasury building in Whitehall.

The blockading of several locations around Westminster led to 135 protesters being arrested.

In the video shared by Miss Mordaunt, protesters in bright clothing danced in the street waving flags with the Extinction Rebellion logo.

 

The now trade minister clashed with rivals Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch after they claimed they reversed the policy she championed as the minister.

Yesterday, The Mail on Sunday reported that government papers from 2019 suggested Miss Mordaunt was in favour of removing an element of the medical process. It said another paper from February 2020 confirmed the Government’s support for self-identification ended after she was replaced as the minister in charge of the policy.

But Miss Mordaunt told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme she had never advocated ending the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to legally change gender.

‘This has been rebutted many times,’ she said. ‘We all know what is going on. This is the type of toxic politics people want to get away from.

‘We did a consultation. We asked healthcare professionals what they thought. I managed that consultation. We didn’t actually, on my shift, produce a policy. There is a number of smears going on in the papers.’

Last night, on the second TV debate, Mrs Badenoch repeated a claim she had been responsible for reversing a policy after Miss Mordaunt left as equalities minister.

She said: ‘When I took on the role of equalities minister, we had to change the existing government policy which previous ministers had put in place.

‘What I’m challenging or what I challenged Penny on is what that policy was. She is saying she did not agree with it, but I don’t understand how that would be the case if she had been the previous minister. If she didn’t agree with it, why was the policy as it was?’

Miss Mordaunt replied: ‘I wasn’t the previous minister. The stuff in the papers today demonstrates what my policy was and refutes this.’

According to reports, a document drawn up by civil servants in 2019, when Miss Mordaunt was equalities minister, says: ‘It has been very helpful to clarify in recent weeks several elements of how you would like to reform the Gender Recognition Act.’ This included ‘ministerial agreement around removing the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria’.

In June 2018, Miss Mordaunt gave a speech to Tory LGBT+ activists in which she said she ‘can’t even be seen to be helping with’ the proposed legislation on gender transition, The Spectator reported.

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