by Gareth Roberts
Tuesday, 12
July 2022
Spotted
16:30

Why does Penny Mordaunt hate Dad’s Army?

This is no laughing matter for the leadership contender
by Gareth Roberts
Screengrab from Penny Mourdant’s campaign video

Charles Moore has dug up quite the quote from Tory leadership hopeful Penny Mordaunt today. In her 2021 book Greater: Britain After The Storm she reveals that she hates Dad’s Army and the other sitcoms written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft.

This sounds desperately trivial, because it is, but Moore has really exposed Mordaunt’s flank here. Asking the British public to like you — more specifically, asking elderly Tory members — if you hate Dad’s Army, is a bit like the cat bin woman hoping to be made CEO of the RSPCA.

Hilariously Mordaunt describes It Ain’t Half Hot Mum as “a full-house bingo card of… casual racism, homophobia, white privilege, colonialism, transphobia, bullying, misogyny and sexual harassment”.

Yes, all those things are, technically, depicted and mostly they come from one character, Sergeant Major ‘Shut up!’ Williams. But there is no malice in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, and they are all depicted as bad things.

Sergeant Major Williams is not the hero. He is the butt of almost every joke. The main wellspring of the humour comes from his utter lack of comprehension at the gleeful naughtiness and informality of the concert party. At the party is an amiable jumble of hopeless young men, including a drag queen, and a boffin, as well as Indian and Burmese characters. The final episodes treats Williams as a pitiable figure and, tellingly, Muhammed the ‘chah wallah’ sets off for Britain to join his friends. It would actually be very easy to read this show as a ‘queer-positive’ satire on the fading days of a laughable empire.

Trying to map 21st century social justice ideology onto it is hilarious, and rather like — in fact, exactly like — a politician in 1972 opining on George Robey, 1922’s ‘Prime Minister of Mirth’.

As for the TV shows’ “nostalgic focus” — wrong again, Penny. Most of the characters lead miserable, unfulfilled, lives. One of the main tenets of Hi-de-Hi! is that the entertainers at the holiday camp are disappointed, tragic figures whose turns aren’t very good. Anybody who watches You Rang M’Lord?  and thinks it’s advocating a return to the grotesque social inequality it satirises is an idiot. The entire conceit of Dad’s Army is that the Home Guard was bloody useless. As Clive James once remarked, if Corporal Jones is the only thing standing between you and Dachau, what can you do but laugh?

What all these shows do have is a sense of community and togetherness among those at the bottom of the heap, and a generous, big-hearted spirit. Ironically they are the very acme of inclusion. Melvyn Hayes’s camp ‘Gloria’ Beaumont is the leader of the gang, loved by his mates. The outrageously open lesbian Cissy Meldrum of You Rang M’Lord? is a social reformer, the only person upstairs that the downstairs unequivocally take to their hearts.

What Mordaunt is doing here is common among politicians desperate to display their progressive credentials — making a confident pronouncement of hate or love about some cultural artefact in the mistaken belief it will make you look hip. David Cameron’s toe-curling profession of love of The Smiths, Gordon Brown’s for the Arctic Monkeys, or Jeremy Corbyn pretending to watch Eastenders. Let us not forget how the drawn-out downfall of Boris Johnson began with Peppa Pig.

It doesn’t make them look like one of us. In Mordaunt’s case, with her electorate both small and potentially very large, it could be suicidal. Bye-de-bye, Penny.

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 months ago

It Ain’t Half Hot Mum – surely the Right Honourable member for Wokesborough means It Ain’t Half Hot, Gestational Parent. The same for Non-Birthing-Parent’s Army.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

Lol. Non-gestational Parent’s Army, Some Birthing People Do Have ‘Em.
I wonder when the left-wing publication Mother Jones will change its name to keep up with the times.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

And then there’s ‘Some Birthing Parents Do ‘Ave ‘Em!’.
A pathetic attempt at being on trend which should consign Mordaunt to the depths of the backbenches, with constituency invitations to speak at Tory fete openings where she can boast about her wokeness as she gives out prizes for the best Victoria sponge.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

When I did my Pre Sandhurst training at the then Guards Depot, Pirbright, our Lance S’arnt PTI nick named me ‘ Sooty’ as I had a ‘ foreign name, part Italian as it happens! I thought it was actually very funny.. and he was a lovely man..

David McKee
David McKee
2 months ago

It’s very risky, to write something serious about humour. It’s all too easy to fall flat on your face. Lefties do it with monotonous regularity, but then the poor ducks really do struggle with a sense of humour. The basic problem is that they take themselves far too seriously.
The point, surely, about Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum is that they are realistic portrayals of wartime service. Patriotism, discomfort, frustration, incompetence and boredom are all mixed in with the very occasional flash of terrifying danger. For every Jack Hawkins, looking stern on the bridge of a warship, there were fifty stokers in the engine room, who had not the foggiest idea what was going on.
However, “What all these shows do have is a sense of community and togetherness among those at the bottom of the heap, and a generous, big-hearted spirit.” Spot-on, Mr. Roberts.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

I do agree with you David except that most stokers would be found in the boiler room(s)

Harry Child
Harry Child
2 months ago

What is wrong with these feeble politicians that that they cannot see that these old series were a poke at the eccentricities of normal British people, What with the problems this country, along with many others, face we need tough robust minded leaders not self serving wimps.

James Pennington
James Pennington
2 months ago

Agree 99% with this article, but subtle than ‘we were laughing at Williams’ indeed quality writing is always better than that. Sgt Mjr Williams is also loved and we don’t laugh AT him when he says, “You.. is a poof” it’s just funny because it’s true, Windsor Davies was a funny man, and we were just less worried then, saw the silliness of it all. Viewers are not laughing at outrageous homophobia being lampooned, that’s deluded and reading back into something that wasn’t there. But that doesn’t make it homophobic in any meaningful sense. Everyone gets the mick taken, nobody gets it taken too badly. We’re all in it together. Protected characteristics should not mean immunity from humour.
It’s not homophobic because as the article rightly says, it’s all done in warmth and love and Gloria is loved and accepted, actually by Williams also deep down. Despite their differences they work, somehow, and it’s heartwarming to see.
Except to Penny, who thinks Dad’s Army is too white, too straight, too whatever, and as is rightly argued, it’s like trying to get votes from people by telling them you basically hate everything they love, and by extension, them. Not a great move really.

Last edited 2 months ago by James Pennington
John Murray
John Murray
2 months ago

Yeah, my recollection of the final episode is that they had all been ready to tell Williams all sorts when they get demobbed, but instead, seeing him out of uniform, they can’t bring themselves to do it. Williams ends up going off with the one who was hinted at being his illegitimate son (I forget the names) to see the lad’s mother.

Peter B
Peter B
2 months ago

There should be no “protected characteristics”. Period.
The idea that some people deserve more legal freedom and protection than others is just wrong.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Some might even point out that it’s discriminatory.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

As demonstrated here, in her earnest and humourless attempt to appeal to people who will always despise her and her party, Penny M entirely misses the point about It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (ah, happy childhood memories). I’m reminded of those who condemn as racist those other classics, Til Death Us Do Part and Love Thy Neighbour, because they used the N-word and other now-proscribed language. In reality both programmes satirised white working class bigotry – Alf Garnett was ridiculed by his lefty son-in-law (played by the future father-in-law of Tony Blair), and the black couple in Love Thy Neighbour were delightful, attractive and intelligent, the polar opposite of their white neighbours.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

Most people forget, or did not ” get” the last episode of Dad’s Army, when to the Pooteresque snob Captain Mainwaring, his much derided clerk and Sergeant appears for his wedding in his WW1 uniform as a Captain in The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) replete with Military Cross!!!!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 months ago

Dad’s Army is actually an excellent primer in leadership. For all his self-importance and pretension, Mainwaring always does his duty and leads from the front. When there is a dangerous task to be undertaken, e.g. climbing up a telegraph pole to deal with an unexploded bomb lodged in the wires, it’s Mainwaring who does it. Yes, he’s something of a figure of fun – but a brave one.

Russell David
Russell David
2 months ago

Mordaunt seems to be humour-free, which is a big flaw for someone in public office. Could explain why she hardly ever smiles. More than this, she’s FAKE – she’s trying to now present herself as someone she isn’t.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
2 months ago

‘… Mordaunt describes It Ain’t Half Hot Mum as “a full-house bingo card of… casual racism, homophobia, white privilege, colonialism, transphobia, bullying, misogyny and sexual harassment”.’
Don’t believe anyone who asserts that wokery is confined to Left Wing, ‘progressive’ political parties. The Woking Class is very much alive and kicking hard throughout the rank and file of the Tory Party.
God help us if this woman becomes PM!

Last edited 2 months ago by Julian Pellatt
Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 months ago

More like this please. Mordaunt would be the fourth Tony Blair tribute act in a row from our ‘Conservative’ party and it’s laughable that she’s being so talked up by journalists (who naturally fawn all over her because she says everything they think).

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

It should be mandatory for all serious politicians to love this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvmRI6K8TS8

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
2 months ago

Kemi would never have said that.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 months ago

I’m not going to comment on PM’s baffling war for woke. She is my neighbouring MP in a constituency she has done well to hold her majority. But it’s still a marginal, bellwether one. If the Tories lose, ok they will lose next election, they will lose their leader

Carole Head
Carole Head
2 months ago

Great article. I could not agree more. To judge past times by today’s values is so unfair. What is wonderful about British humour is that it is often self-deprecating and revels in the ridiculous. However, Penny Mordaunt is the judgemental voice of the next generation who are undoubtedly ‘woke’.

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
2 months ago

Presumably she thinks she might appeal to the young people who might join the Tory Party. That won’t happen. If they join anything it will be Labour/Lib Dem/Greens.

Molly Bennett
Molly Bennett
2 months ago

TYPICAL COMMENTS ! for gods sake give them the chance at least ,stop judging until you have something to judge !!!!!

Allan F
Allan F
2 months ago

Actually all she’s saying is that doesn’t find the shows funny. Nothing wrong with that. Her reasons for this may be unfathomable to the likes of you, but that’s humour for you.