Theresa May appoints Navy reservist to bolster fragile cabinet

Penny Mordaunt More

Penny Mordaunt More

Patel was forced to quit after being summoned back frrom an African trip by May on Wednesday following revelations she had met senior Israeli officials during a family holiday in the summer, a significant breach of diplomatic protocol.

May's choices for replacing Patel were restricted by her desire to maintain balance in her government between proponents and opponents of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

She was first elected to parliament in 2010 as a Tory MP for Portsmouth North.

Assuming that May would not countenance a cut in the number of women in Cabinet, Mordaunt was the only female Brexiteer at Minister of State level.

One minister told The Independent the loss of her ministers did not in itself pose a terminal threat to May's government, but argued that the direction of travel had to change.

Priti Patel resigned last night as a result of her unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians.

"While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

"An enormous thank you to friends, colleagues, constituents & the public for the support & kindness you have shown me over the last few days", she tweeted on Thursday. "The existence of such a meeting would call into question the official account of Patel's behaviour and the goal of the visit". Born in London, Patel was appointed diaspora champion for the British Indian community by former Prime Minister David Cameron as part of its effort to strengthen ties between the two countries, and to win over more of the British Gujarati and wider Indian community, which has traditionally voted Labour, to the Conservative Party.

She gained an interest in politics having worked in the hospitals and orphanages of post-revolutionary Romania, for the year before and during her time at university.

Like Patel, Mordaunt campaigned for Britain to quit the bloc before last year's Brexit referendum. She straddles the Leave-Remain divide as one of the most reluctant Remainers before the referendum who has since sought to deliver an uncompromising version of Brexit.

Aside from her stance on Brexit, Mordaunt appears to share an eagerness to engage on India-related issues with Patel.

"I'm happy to say that they failed in that, but during our mess dinner at the end of the course I was fined for a misdemeanour of not eating my salad or something like that, and the fine was to say a particular word - the abbreviation of cockerel - several times during a speech on the floor of the House of Commons and mention all of the officer's names present".

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