The Boris Johnson era is all but over, and nobody with even the slightest sense of decency will be shedding a tear. The most mendacious, amoral and disreputable Prime Minister in British history has consistently lied to the people, to parliament and to his own government colleagues. Hell, he even lied to the Queen – technically his boss. There will, of course, be those who point to his steadfast support for Ukraine as something in his favour but that is the very least we should expect from a British prime minister. I cannot think of any PM in my lifetime of whatever party who would have acted differently.
Serial-adulterer Johnson partied while many of us were deprived of visiting our loved ones or attending their funerals. He doled out Covid contracts worth millions to his mates, with the country seeing little in return. He tried to change parliamentary rules so one of his chums wouldn’t be censured under lobbying regulations, and he’s spent a fortune doing up his Downing Street apartment with cash from, to say the least, dubious sources.
And, importantly for the LGBTQ+ community, he has prevaricated so much on banning conversion therapy – and completely reneged on it in respect of trans people – that the UK has plummeted from second to 14th in the IGLA-Europe country rankings.
So, what of his successor? There will, of course, be those who believe that, when a PM resigns, there should automatically be a general election. Sadly, that’s not how things work in British politics. For the benefit of our readers outside the UK, we vote for individual MPs and the party they represent, not for a prime minister or a president. The Conservatives won an 80-seat majority at the last election so are entitled to form a government until the next election, irrespective of who their leader is.
Given that we’re going to be landed with a Tory PM for at least the next couple of years, the next Conservative party leader matters, and now that hats have been thrown into the ring, we’re hoping that the parliamentary party and the wider membership cast off the posh-boy legacy of Johnson, the complicity of those who turned a blind eye to his malfeasances but who are now standing for leader, and the toxic masculinity that has blighted global politics for so long: Trump, Jinping, Bolsanaro, Putin et al.
It is with some relief, therefore, that Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North since 2010, has announced her candidature. Mordaunt, whose twin brother is gay, has an impeccable voting record on LGBTQ+ rights, unlike some of her fellow candidates who either voted against measures like equal marriage or who were conveniently absent from the House on the day of the vote.
Take a look at how Penny Mordaunt announced her candidature on Twitter:
She has declared that “trans women are women” at the dispatch box (where she also became the first minister to deliver a speech in British Sign Language) yet acknowledges differences between biological sex and gender. She is the first person in her family to have gone to university and is the only female MP to be serving as a Royal Navy reservist. While on duty with the Navy, she lost a bet, which resulted in her delivering a speech to parliament on poultry welfare, solely to shoehorn the words “cock” and “laid” into her speech as many times as possible. Critically, she backed Jeremy Hunt rather than Johnson in the last Tory leadership contest.
Because she appeared on Tom Daley’s ITV diving realty show Splash in 2014, where she donated her fee to various charities, she has had to put up with the Daily Mail and other British tabloids repeatedly showing photographs of her in a swimsuit.
We know that there is more to being Prime Minister than LGBTQ+ rights. But, in today’s divided society, and especially with the likes of anti-abortion, anti-divorce Jacob Rees-Mogg and the heartless Priti Patel currently in the cabinet, choosing a leader with a clear commitment to progressive social values will be a huge step in the right direction for our country.