The European Research Group (ERG) was unable to rally behind Penny Mordaunt’s leadership bid as her “woke book” posed a “big problem”, a source has claimed. Ms Mordaunt, who campaigned for Brexit in 2016, is scrambling to receive 100 nominations from Conservative MPs as campaign insiders suggest the Portsmouth North MP is reportedly currently just short of the threshold with 90 backers.
Ms Mordaunt was dealt a blow after ERG chairman Mark Francois revealed his Brexit-backing Tory ginger group would not formally endorse her or ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the leadership race.
Mr Francois said: “We believe that we have one and potentially two extremely strong options to be leader of the Conservative Party but as a group we were unable to collectively endorse either candidate.”
Ms Mordaunt’s alleged “wokeness” was raised as a particular concern after the private meeting was held.
An ERG source told Express.co.uk: “It was pretty balanced and some strong voices for Penny but her woke book was a big, big problem.
JUST IN: ‘Would be a disgrace!’ EU rejoices as Boris Johnson backs down from leadership race
“Rishi only just lost [last time] and won’t play on doorsteps but can calm markets.”
Ms Mordaunt last year co-released Greater: Britain After the Storm and received criticism from some right-leaning commentators.
Ex-Daily Telegraph editor Lord Charles Moore wrote that “Ms Mordaunt launches into a surprisingly fierce attack on various old British films and TV series”, including Dad’s Army and Lawrence of Arabia.
Conservative commentator Toby Young also claimed her book was a “great pitch for the leadership of the Labour Party”.
READ MORE: Rishi ‘did not hold back’ in Boris meeting as he branded ex-PM returning a ‘disaster’
Mr Johnson, who claimed to have 102 backers, withdrew from the race to replace Liz Truss as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister amid concerns he would not have sufficient support from colleagues in the Commons.
He said: “Though I have reached out to both Rishi and Penny – because I hope that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.”