UK's May picks Brexiteer to replace scandal-hit aid minister
Theresa May appointed a strong Brexit supporter as aid minister on Thursday following a resignation that left the British prime minister struggling to ward off open conflict in a cabinet divided over leaving the European Union, APA reports quoting Reuters.
May is grappling with crises on several fronts. Her team is struggling to make headway in exit talks with the EU, several ministers are embroiled in a wider sexual harassment scandal and her ability to command a majority in parliament is facing its most serious test.
Penny Mordaunt, 44, who has previously held junior ministerial roles, had a short meeting with May at Downing Street during which her appointment as the new International Development Secretary was confirmed.
Fellow Brexit supporter Priti Patel resigned from the position on Wednesday over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials that breached diplomatic protocol.
Patel’s resignation forced May into her second cabinet reshuffle in a week after Michael Fallon resigned as defense secretary in the sexual harassment scandal. Two other ministers, including May’s deputy, are also being investigated.
Although May and her cabinet are united in their intention to take Britain out of the EU, her ministerial team is seen as a delicate balancing act between lawmakers who are still identified as ‘remainers’ or ‘leavers’ according to how they voted in the referendum.
“Leaving aside Penny Mordaunt’s qualifications for the job, the main one is obviously that she’s a Brexiteer. It doesn’t seem now that any appointment can be made in this government other than on the basis of whether that person supported ‘leave’ or ‘remain’,” said Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London.
“That is indicative of the difficult position that Theresa May is in and you’ve got to ask whether that is good for the country.”
Mordaunt campaigned for the ‘Vote Leave’ group during the EU referendum, and was criticized by then-prime minister David Cameron for inaccurately saying that Britain would not be able to stop Turkey from joining the EU if it remained a member. All EU states have veto powers on new members.
The former junior defense minister was elected in 2010 to represent the southern English coastal city of Portsmouth, where she also serves as a volunteer reservist for the Royal Navy.
In the early 1990s she worked in hospitals and orphanages in Romania, and recently spoke about the “medieval” conditions she witnessed there. Until Thursday’s appointment, Mordaunt held a junior ministerial post with responsibilities for disabled people, health and work within the Department of Work and Pensions.
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