Penny Mordaunt: ‘Our comms is s**t!’

Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, condemned her own party’s comms as ‘s**t’ in a speech to an event organised by Conservatives in Communications.

Penny Mordaunt (Getty Images/Leon Neal/Staff)

During the speech, Mordaunt said: “What have we learned so far in conference? We’ve learned that our policies are great, but our comms is s***!”

She added: “Does anyone know anyone that can help us? Anyone know anyone who works in comms?”

Mordaunt worked in comms for more than a decade before becoming an MP in 2010. Her past roles included being the Conservative Party’s head of broadcasting, head of foreign press for George W Bush’s US presidential campaign, comms director for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, campaigns director at Diabetes UK, and associate at Hanover. She was also deputy director of comms for the Big Lottery Fund, and one of the founders of political consultancy Media Intelligence Partners.

Speaking at Sunday night’s event, she said: “We have to get our communications right.”

Mordaunt’s outspoken remarks come amid mounting pressure on Prime Minister Liz Truss, who, with Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, was forced to make a humiliating U-turn yesterday on her controversial pledge to remove the higher rate of tax. Conservatives in Communications declined to comment on Mordaunt’s outburst.

Treasury comms 

The concerns about Conservative Party comms are part of a wider picture of confused messages from the Government.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Truss appeared to blame comms failings for the disastrous reception given to her plan to cut taxes.

She admitted the Government “should have laid the ground better” prior to its mini-budget announcement on 23 September.

Truss also said: “There has been too much focus on the optics of how things look.”

The Treasury declined to comment on her remarks; and the government department was  accused of “irresponsible” messaging by money saving expert Martin Lewis yesterday, after it tweeted about stamp duty savings that could be made by first-time buyers. 

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he claimed the messaging could provide “false hope.” The Treasury’s tweet stated: “Thanks to the Growth Plan, a typical first-time buyer in London moving into a representative terraced house will save £11,250 on stamp duty & £1,050 on the household’s energy bills – and if they earn £30,000 almost an additional £400 on tax. This is around £12,700 in total.”

Interviewing Chris Philp, chief secretary to the Treasury, Lewis said: “To save £11,250 on stamp duty you have to be buying a house as a first-time buyer of £500,000 or more. The cheapest fixed-rate mortgage on a £500,000 property with a 10 per cent deposit leaves you with payments of £2,400 a month, which is £28,000 a year.”

He added: “Your example is for somebody who earns £30,000 a year. Clearly, they would not get that mortgage. And clearly on £30,000 a year before tax you cannot pay a mortgage of £28,000 a year. This seems fundamentally irresponsible for the Treasury to be putting out this kind of statement in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

Philp replied: “You are right to point out that someone on that particular level of earnings would be unlikely to be able to get a mortgage to fund a £500,000 house.” He added: “You’re right to point out the anomaly between the salary and the house value and I’d be happy to take a look at it.”

The Treasury has since deleted the tweet. In a statement, a spokesperson for HM Treasury  said: “While the figures used were statistically accurate, we recognise that certain assumptions were made about the profile of the typical first time buyer which were not reflected in this tweet.” They added: “We take responsible messaging very seriously – which is why we have deleted the tweet in question.”

Conflicting messages

Last week the Prime Minister was at odds with messaging being put out by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that explained energy bills would depend on the amount of energy people use. 

In a series of local radio interviews Truss repeatedly stated that the maximum people would pay would be £2,500.

Her claims prompted UK fact-checking organisation Full Fact to issue a strongly worded statement: “This is false, and a mistake the Prime Minister has made repeatedly.”

It added that while the Prime Minister had also referred to £2,500 as the maximum “typical” bill, this was “potentially still confusing as it doesn’t explicitly mention usage”.

Downing Street did not respond to a request from PRWeek for comment.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

Explore further