Mordaunt brands talk of her challenging Sunak ‘nonsense’

Penny Mordaunt has said talk of her challenging Rishi Sunak’s leadership is “nonsense” after speculation about Tory plots against him.

The Commons Leader insisted she was “focused on doing her current job” and branded the rumours “bollocks”.

The Prime Minister earlier this week battled to assert his authority in an address to the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee following ongoing disquiet over his position.

Tory rebels are said to have talked up the prospect of Ms Mordaunt as a “unity” leadership candidate who could bridge divides between the Tory right and moderates.

Rishi Sunak (Victoria Jones/PA)

Asked if she had now missed her chance to be prime minister, the MP for Portsmouth North replied: “I have put my hat in the ring, and I’m not prime minister.

“I’m leader of the House of Commons. I’m doing my job and encouraging others to get on with theirs.”

Ms Mordaunt, who came third behind Mr Sunak in the leadership contest won by Liz Truss in 2022, added that he was now in “full campaign mode” and “does pass the battle bus test”.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister issued a call to arms to Tory MPs at a closed-doors meeting in Parliament following speculation of a backbench plot to oust him.

Conservative backbenchers filing out of the session after his rallying speech sought to stress broad support for the leader and dismiss reports of dissent amid dire poll ratings.

However, it is understood Mr Sunak was challenged by former party chairman Sir Jake Berry at the meeting over media briefings against him which he alleged had originated from No 10.

Sir Jake stressed he had not submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister but said he had raised the issue with the whips and received no reply.

Government figures have denied the Conservatives are deeply divided but suggested there are “one or two” plotters seeking to split the party.

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