Penny Mordaunt’s links to an anti-abortion group have come under fresh scrutiny after it emerged that a lobbyist for the Christian Medical Fellowship is part of her campaign team.
The Tory leadership candidate recruited the PR guru Alistair Thompson, whose firm Team Britannia represents the evangelical doctors’ group, to help with her drive to become prime minister.
Thompson has been contacting journalists on Mordaunt’s behalf and was pictured with the Trade Minister at her campaign launch in central London last week (she greets him at the top of the stairs in the video below).
Delighted to show my support for @PennyMordaunt at her jam packed campaign launch this morning.— Emily Harris (@emharris33) July 13, 2022
Our leadership needs a change and so does the way we govern, very refreshing to hear such an impressive speech with realistic conservative policies.
🚢🇬🇧 #PM4PM 🇬🇧🚢 pic.twitter.com/MgPv4SwiYM
When asked today (20 July) about Thompson, a campaign source for Mordaunt said: “Penny has always, and continues to, champion women’s rights. As an MP, Mordaunt has voted to liberalise access to abortion, including in 2019 to make it legal in Northern Ireland.” They did not deny that Thompson was working for the campaign.
The Fellowship advocates outlawing terminations, even if the woman is a victim of rape. One of the reports listed on the Fellowship’s website suggests termination is wrong, even when a woman has been the victim of a sexual assault, because keeping the child is “a display of courage, strength and honour”. It continues to say that abortion in cases of rape “simply sacrifices a second innocent party to the crime”, and adds: “Many women who have been raped believe that abortion is immoral, that the child is simply a second innocent victim, and that if they get through the pregnancy they will have conquered the rape.”
Mordaunt’s campaign has insisted that she is a strong supporter of women’s rights and access to abortion. Her team stressed that she supports access to abortion and has consistently voted to liberalise laws.
Thompson is a close ally of Mordaunt, who is fighting today for a place in the final two of the leadership race, and previously worked for Media Intelligence Partners (MIP), the public affairs firm founded by Mordaunt and Nick Wood, a former press secretary to past Tory leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith. The New Statesman revealed yesterday that MIP lobbied for the Christian Medical Fellowship when Mordaunt was named in official records as a director and shareholder of the former – positions she held until she was elected as MP for Portsmouth North in 2010.
Thompson set up Team Britannia in 2017 and the company has since lobbied for the Christian Medical Fellowship as part of its campaign against assisted dying. Team Britannia’s website also includes a press release celebrating the Fellowship’s 70-year anniversary in 2019, noting how the group was “serving Christ in the healing professions” and that its “influence in the public square has grown markedly over the years”. The Fellowship currently lists Thompson’s details as its media contact online.
It is unclear whether, as a shareholder in MIP, Mordaunt would have financially benefited from the company’s deal with the Fellowship, and her closeness to Thompson has raised questions. When approached about the Fellowship’s links to MIP earlier this week, a source said: “Penny was no longer working for MIP at the time the firm carried out work on behalf of the Christian Medical Fellowship. Penny has always, and continues to, champion women’s rights.”
The New Statesman has contacted Thompson and the Christian Medical Fellowship for comment.