Penny Mordaunt defends Leadsom Tory leadership bid

Andrea Leadsom visits Sellafield Ltd

A leading backer of Andrea Leadsom’s bid to become prime minister has claimed there is a concerted effort to try to rubbish her career after reports claimed she exaggerated her previous roles in the City.

Leadsom, who came second to Theresa May in the first round of the Conservative party’s leadership contest, was accused of using a misleading CV in her leadership bid. She also faces pressure to be more open about her financial affairs.

The energy minister is the only remaining candidate in the Tory leadership contest who has not made their tax return public.

In an article in the Times, a former colleague from her time at Invesco Perpetual, Robert Stephens, was quoted as saying “she did not manage any teams, large or small, and she certainly did not manage any funds” despite her job title of “senior investment officer and head of corporate governance”. Leadsom’s spokesman told the paper she had no involvement with investments at Invesco Perpetual and that “job titles can convey misapprehensions”.

But one of Leadsom’s key backers, the armed forces minister, Penny Mordaunt, said the article was “totally bogus”. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mordaunt said: “This is a concerted effort to rubbish a stellar career and imply that she was just making the tea.”

Asked if Leadsom had run an investment fund and management team, Mordaunt said: “Yes, she has. She worked a decade at Barclays. She was doing investments and she was running a fund. She was also managing the global banking network. We have put her CV out there and Andrea’s stock is high in this area.”

Mordaunt did not say who was organising efforts to question Leadsom’s financial credentials, but said: “She is hugely respected by economists and business people, she has tremendous support in this area. It is because she is the strongest candidate on the economy and the stewardship of the economy particularly over the next few years is going to be so critical, that she is under fire on this.”

Mordaunt conceded that Leadsom was facing a battle with Michael Gove to make the final shortlist of candidates alongside the frontrunner, May. She said: “Andrea is the strongest person on the economy ... and she’s a tremendous social reformer. I think the membership would like a runoff between the two ladies.”

She added: “We need someone who is not just going to get us through the next years, but ensure that they are absolutely the making of us, and I’m afraid, I love my colleagues dearly, but we need fresh leadership to do that. We need someone who can reinvigorate politics, that can unite the nation.”

May, who won the support of the 165 MPs in the first round of the contest, has published her tax returns for the last four financial years. The will put pressure on Leadsom to follow suit.

May’s statement from the private bank Coutts showed she paid £40,023 in income tax in 2014-15. She earned £112,426 from her MP’s and home secretary’s salaries and a further £6,036 in interest and dividends. Her total taxable income was £117,350 after taking her reduced personal allowance into account. The home secretary declared £5,033 in net capital gains and £685 in charitable donations. Between 2011 and 2014 she paid £126,679 in income tax on £375,343 of earnings.

Gove published his own returns after launching his leadership bid. It showed he paid nearly £70,000 tax in the two years up to April 2015. His income in 2013-14 when he was education secretary was £117,786 and his high salary meant his personal allowance was reduced to £547, according to the documents.

Leadsom’s campaign manager, Tim Loughton MP, told the BBC she would publish her tax return “as soon as she gets time away from speaking to colleagues and fighting this campaign”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Matthew Weaver, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th July 2016 09.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010