Penny Mordaunt boosts Tory leadership chances with sword-wielding coronation role

Penny Mordaunt appears to have boosted her chances of leading the Conservative party after her central role wielding a sword at King Charles III’s coronation won widespread attention.

The Commons leader and Lord President of the Privy Council was the surprise star of the Westminster Abbey ceremony, carrying the eight-pound sword aloft for 51 minutes.

Some viewers mocked her teal caped dress, embroidered with a golden fern, by comparing her to a Star Wars and Game of Thrones character – but bookmakers slashed odds of her succeeding Rishi Sunak.

The starring role at the coronation has raised the profile of the cabinet minister, who narrowly lost out to Mr Sunak and Liz Truss in making the final two of the Tories’ summer leadership contest.

Among the many Conservatives showering praise on Ms Mordaunt, Caroline Nokes tweeted: “I am just not sure how Penny Mordaunt could have done this any better.”

The senior Tory added: “8kg sword for the first hour replaced by a marginally lighter one but with no support sling – triceps of steel, in heels, singing.”

Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry said: “Got to say it, Penny Mordaunt looks damn fine! The sword bearer steals the show.” Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant added: “The Penny is mightier than the sword.”

The usually scathing Alistair Campbell tweeted: “Don’t let anyone ever say I never say anything positive about Tories …. I am in awe of Penny Mordaunt’s arm and shoulder strength!”

Ladbrokes put Ms Mordaunt at 13/2 second favourite to succeed Mr Sunak as Tory leader, narrowly behind business secretary Kemi Badenoch.

The Commons leader upheld the sword of state during the coronation before exchanging it for the jewelled sword of offering and presenting it to Charles.

Ms Mordaunt told Times Radio that had been doing press-ups to get fit for the big day as well as practising with a weighted replica. She said her time in the navy prepared her for “standing for long periods of time not fainting”.

She told Politico that she “felt it wasn’t right” to wear the black-and-gold outfit of the Privy Council worn by the Marquess of Salisbury for the last coronation, and wanted “something that is modern”.

The “Poseidon” teal colour of the dress by luxury designer Safiyaa, which she paid for herself, was a reference to her Portsmouth constituency.

Following Boris Johnson’s resignation over the Partygate scandal last July, Ms Mordaunt enjoyed surprise momentum behind her bid to enter No 10 – eventually losing to Ms Sunak and Ms Truss in the fifth round.

With some Tories bruised by the dire local election results, Mr Sunak will endeavour to keep Ms Mordaunt onside as he tries to claw back some strength in the polls.

Afterwards taking part in Sunday’s ceremony, the Commons leader said that she was “honoured to be part of the coronation with thousands of others who played their part”.

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