Speaking as one who was brought up in the golden age of British comedy, I can’t help contextualising things in terms of e.g. Steptoe and Son or Dad’s Army, Hancock’s Half Hour or even Harry Worth. But reflecting on my very early TV watching years I have to confess there exists a gap between watching Bill and Ben The Flowerpot Men and the aforementioned shows. So much so, I remember once being frightened to the extent of hiding behind the sofa when the Daleks were first given an outing on Dr Who. This was probably because the Daleks looked like inverted flower pots. At an early age you are allowed to make any connections you like, no matter how tenuous.
This is a magic roundabout way of wondering how Dad’s Army’s characters have become role models for our government’s Cabinet Ministers (capital C, capital M). It is possible that for some of these ministers, their only knowledge of wartime struggle (which is their metaphor for today’s problem) is having watched Dad’s Army, perhaps on its fifth repeat run? So who are the key characters and their current incarnations?
Capt Mainwaring: Boris Johnson of course, no prizes there. A bumbling, oafish and self-important character who vastly overestimates his capacity not just for intelligence, but the application of it.
Sgt. Wilson: insouciance personified, louche and devotedly relaxed, here we have Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who conjures up the very best of the English ideal of not having to do very much at all in order to convince everyone of his Stephen Potterish willingness to be everyone’s hard (but actually not hard) working companion.
Corporal Jones: the man who is prone at every opportunity to say ‘Sir! I’d like to volunteer!’ but is also prone to shout ’Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’ Who else is this but Matt Hancock, who seems to be up for the fight but has absolutely no talent for it.
Private Frazer: I’m not quite sure who I would suggest is this Cabinet’s Private Frazer: which one qualifies as being the most two-faced?
Private Walker: No two ways about it, Grant Shapps has all the makings of somebody who could always make a fast buck on the side, no matter what the disaster.
Private Pike: As things stand, and this judgement could (always) be adjusted in the next minute or two, I think yesterday’s nobody and today’s great hope Rishi Sunak could fit the bill, a man who is loaded with ideas, many of which are doomed to fail, but whom we want to place our trust in because at least he seems to have some ideas. Many of which are doomed to fail. Did I mention that?
Private Godfrey: Godfrey, one of my favourite characters in Dad’s Army has no easy comparative character in our estimable Cabinet. He is a man of unimpeachable integrity, but suffers from a weak bladder, and in all his years of quiet servitude in Civil Service stores has never sought the limelight, merely seeking satisfaction in pressing creases in the tennis flannels of more worthy wearers. Well, that perhaps sums up the rest of the cabinet, who like the second rank in the show, are merely onlookers. This is perhaps where the uncelebrated contribution of a rarely speaking character comes in:
Private Sponge. Yes, for the rest of the Cabinet, despite their useless contribution to government, Sponge is the name of the game.
I would like to take this analysis even further, to question how Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition frontbench compares to the A.R.P., where greengrocer Chief Warden Hodges rules the roost, but due to a recent change of personnel it’s a bit too soon to make a judgement. Phew! How convenient! Put those lights out!