Penny Mordaunt hints she would like to succeed Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary at reshuffle

Penny Mordaunt has hinted that she would like to be made Defence Secretary again when Ben Wallace steps down at the next Cabinet reshuffle, which could take place next month.

The Leader of the House of Commons said she “loved” working in the Ministry of Defence, having previously served in the job for several months under Theresa May.

In what will be seen as a job pitch to Rishi Sunak, Ms Mordaunt signalled that she would like to return to the department when the Prime Minister reshuffles his team.

Last month Mr Wallace said he planned to leave the Government at the next reshuffle having spent four years as Defence Secretary, and would not be standing in the general election.

Appearing at an event with broadcaster Iain Dale at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, Ms Mordaunt pointed out that she had only served as Defence Secretary for 86 days under Mrs May and had “made every one of them count”.

Asked if she would like to go back to her old job, she replied: “If I’d had 87 days, yes I would have had some things to do on the 87th day. But I genuinely don’t worry about that, because it’s not in my gift.

“I was Defence Secretary but I was also Min AF [Armed Forces minister], so I’ve been in the department on a couple of occasions and it is a privilege to do it. I love working in the Armed Forces.”

When Mr Dale asked her to name a Cabinet job she would like to do, she added: “I’ve always loved the international work, I’ve always loved Defence. But it is pointless to worry about these things. I think that you make the opportunities you’re given work.”

Ms Mordaunt also did not rule out standing for the Conservative leadership for a third time, but said she was focused on returning Mr Sunak as Prime Minister at the next election.

“It’s no secret that I would have liked to be Prime Minister, that’s why I threw my hat in the ring. But genuinely, I’m not thinking about that,” she said.

“I really do think that if we do not win a fifth term, many of the things that we have as a country been through, which have been quite painful but in my view the right thing for the trajectory of the country, they won’t be maximised, I really believe that. I’m going to do everything I can to support the PM and get us that fifth term.”

During the hour-long event, the MP also took aim at the SNP, claiming that the party would never win its campaign for Scottish independence as it made its case with “real bile and hatred”.

She said: “I’ve always thought that any movement that does not set out a positive vision, which is what I think the SNP does – there are all sorts of arguments you can make for independence, none that would carry any weight with me – but I think if you approach the thing that you are trying to get done with real bile and hatred, which is quite often the sentiment that comes across with the SNP, I think you are going to fail.”

Responding to her comments, SNP MP Deidre Brock said: “The SNP supports independence because we want Scotland to have the power to build a fairer, greener and more prosperous country. That is inherently positive.

“With independence, Scotland can regain its place at the heart of Europe, maximise our potential as a renewable energy powerhouse, and build a wealthier, healthier and fairer society.

“In contrast, the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party are lurching to the right, isolating the UK with Brexit, and imposing a cost of living crisis on millions of families.

“There is nothing positive about Westminster plunging children into poverty, creating a stagnant low-wage economy, attacking devolution or taking people’s rights away.”

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