Tory MP voting for Penny Mordaunt 'because of her brave viral belly flop’

·Freelance Writer
·4-min read

Watch: Tory leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt does belly flop on ITV's 'Splash' in 2014

Penny Mordaunt is the current frontrunner to take over from Boris Johnson as prime minister – but it's her diving skills which secured the backing of one Tory MP.

Mordaunt made it through to the third round of the Tory leadership battle on Thursday, coming second to Rishi Sunak in terms of support from fellow Conservatives.

Sunak picked up 101 votes, Mordaunt 83, Liz Truss 64, Kemi Badenoch 49 and Tom Tugendhat 32, while Suella Braverman was eliminated having only gained 27.

However, Mordaunt gained the most votes – putting on 16 from Wednesday's total.

Polling of Conservative party members puts her way in front of the other candidates, putting the trade minister as the favourite.

One MP backing her is former British Army officer Bob Stewart – and it was her time on a short-lived reality TV show that showed him what Mordaunt is made of.

The prime ministerial hopeful appeared on ITV series Splash in 2014, where her belly flop into the pool was an example of “bravery” to Stewart.

Penny Mordaunt belly-flopped during an appearance on diving show Splash. (ITV)
Penny Mordaunt belly-flopped during an appearance on diving show Splash. (ITV)
Penny Mordaunt took part in Splash so she could donate the money to local charities. (ITV/PA)
Penny Mordaunt took part in Splash so she could donate the money to local charities. (ITV/PA)

A recently resurfaced clip from the show saw Mordaunt attempt a daring backward dive from 7.5 metres, which didn't quite go to plan.

The Portsmouth MP misjudged her rotation and ended up performing a painful-looking belly flop into the water.

Stewart told Times Radio: “I think she's an incredibly brave woman. And one of the things that really appeals to me is her bravery...

“Do you remember the Splash series where she dived?..

“She did a belly flop. And afterwards she was in absolute agony. I saw her legs, they were really blue.

Watch: Lord Frost questions Penny Mordaunt's leadership abilities

“And then she went in and did it again, exactly the same thing. And I thought, my God, I'd never have had the courage to do that again.

“So when I say courage, that's what I mean.”

Mordaunt said ahead of her appearance on the show that she was “very, very nervous” adding: “I’m afraid of heights, and it’s a really frightening thing to do.”

The MP was the ninth person to be eliminated on the series, that was eventually won by Diversity dancer Perri Kiely.

Penny Mordaunt practices her dives with Tom Daley during her appearance on Splash. (PA/ITV)
Penny Mordaunt practices her dives with Tom Daley during her appearance on Splash. (PA/ITV)

At the time, she defended her choice to go on the show, which she did so she could use the £10,000 appearance fee to donate to a local swimming pool in Portsmouth and Armed Services charities.

She told the Daily Mail in 2014: “I’m doing it for charity, and it’s an amazingly challenging personal experience.”

Mordaunt may be receiving support for both her political and diving abilities but her opponents are now on the attack in an attempt to stop her running away with the leadership vote.

Results of the second ballot in the Tory leadership election. (Yahoo/Flourish)
Results of the second ballot in the Tory leadership election. (Yahoo/Flourish)

Former Brexit minister Lord Frost launched a scathing attack on Mordaunt on Thursday, saying she was not up to the job when she was his deputy in talks with the EU.

Frost told TalkTV she lacked a grasp of the detail, was unwilling to deliver tough messages to Brussels, and that he had to ask Johnson to replace her.

Penny Mordaunt at the launch of her campaign to be Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, at the Cinnamon Club, in Westminster, London. Picture date: Wednesday July 13, 2022. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Penny Mordaunt at the launch of her campaign to be Conservative leader and prime minister. (Stefan Rousseau/PA/Getty)

He said he has “grave reservations” about whether Mordaunt – who is currently the international trade minister – is now fit to be the next prime minister.

She has also come under fire from allies of Liz Truss, who Mordaunt pushed into third place on the first round of voting in the Tory leadership contest.

Frost’s remarks were seized on by the Truss campaign, with Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke saying: “Lord Frost’s warning is a really serious one. Conservatives – and far more importantly our country – need a leader who is tested and ready.”

A second round of voting will take place on Thursday, which will see the lowest placed of the six remaining candidates eliminated from the race.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting