Penny Mordaunt has 'the it factor' says Michael Fabricant
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Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, described the international trade minister as “credible” and “believable”, further fighting the candidates corner as the Tory leadership contest enters into the eve of the third round of voting. Mr Fabricant claimed Ms Mordaunt was popular not only among the Conservative members but is “the most popular in the country generally”, adding that she is the person “that Keir Starmer does fear the most”. It comes after Ms Mordaunt faced a number of attacks during Friday’s televised debate and her first public chance to prove her credentials for the prime ministerial role.
Mr Fabricant said: “The key thing about Penny Mordaunt is that she is believable, she’s credible, people like her, and she’s got the IT factor, which I don’t think the others have got.
“If you look at the polling, she’s not only popular among the Conservative Party members who will be voting, the 180,000 members who will be voting between the final two when we have whittled it down.
“More importantly, she is actually the most popular in the country generally and the person that Keir Starmer does fear the most.”
Mr Fabricant later added: “I think it is very clear to me that some of the front runners are very very worried about Penny Mordaunt.”
Ms Mordaunt came under heavy fire on Friday during the first debate for the Tory leadership contest.
The candidates have been whittled down from 11 to just five, with Suella Braverman the latest to fall in the second round of voting on Thursday.
The third round of voting, where the last place finisher will be eliminated again, is due to take place on Monday, July 18 , with the results announced at 8pm.
While Ms Mordaunt took a healthy 83 votes in the second round, the importance of the debate could not be understated in potentially swinging voters.
The campaign teams of the remaining Tory leadership contenders have been assessing the impact of the first TV debate that saw Ms Mordaunt come under fire over her plans for tax cuts and her record on transgender issues.
Amid a series of bruising exchanges, the international trade minister said the attacks by her rivals showed she was the candidate to beat in the race to succeed Boris Johnson.
“I take it as a big fat compliment that no-one wants to run against me,” she said after finishing an unexpectedly strong second in the first two rounds of voting by MPs.
One snap poll of viewers following the debate suggested Tom Tugendhat – who trailed in fifth place in the last ballot – came out on top on the night, with 36 percent saying he had been the strongest performer.
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The survey of 1,159 UK adults by pollsters, Opinium, put Rishi Sunak second on 24 percent with Ms Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch tied on third with 12 percent and Liz Truss fifth on seven percent.
Mr Tugendhat drew the first applause from the Channel 4 studio audience when he was the only candidate to answer “no” when asked if Boris Johnson was an honest man.
He also clashed with Mr Sunak over the latter’s decision to raise national insurance contributions to fund the NHS when he was chancellor.
“To be fair to you Rishi, we had a long conversation about it. You set out your position and I asked why on earth it was necessary and you told me because the boss wanted it,” he said to more applause.
Afterwards, Mr Sunak’s team claimed he had “unambiguously won” the debate, while Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is backing Ms Truss, insisted the foreign secretary had put in an “excellent performance”.
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