Roger Ratcliffe wonders if old England’s done

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You’ve got to laugh at the current wretched cast of UK politicians. I really can’t remember a time when our party leaders and front benches induced so much open ridicule in the country.

A couple of weekends ago, in fact, it struck me that what we are all watching is another remake of Dad’s Army.

One of the BBC’s best sitcoms, Dad’s Army ran for nine series and 80 episodes from 1968 to 1977, and told the story of a platoon of Second World War Home Guard volunteers in the fictional south coast town of Walmington-On-Sea. In recent years the episodes have been playing on a continuous BBC2 loop. This remake, though, seems to be playing every weekday and is set in the neighbouring resort of Westminster-on-Sea.

The pompous leader, Captain Maywaring, presides over a platoon that – for anyone familiar with the characters – resembles the original cast in manner and sometimes even looks. I mean, who can fail to see that Nigel Farage encapsulates the personality of the ARP warden, Hodges, as portrayed by the actor Bill Pertwee? Hodges, Dad’s Army devotees will recall, is paranoid about the ever-present danger across the English Channel. “Put that light out!” is his catchphrase, as though expecting a bomb to imminently fall from the sky. ARP Warden Farage is similarly fearful, and quick to shout “put that light out!” whenever a report predicting the destructive impact of Brexit is published.

The character of Private Pike is taken by Boris Johnson, despite looking nothing like the lanky original played by Ian Lavender. However, man-child Boris slips into the same immature persona with consummate ease, treating everything as a game.

“I know,” he says at one point. “Let’s leave Europe then build a lovely big bridge across the Channel.”

“You stupid boy,” says Captain Maywaring.

The role of Lance Corporal Jones, immortalised by the actor Clive Dunn, has gone to Jeremy Corbyn. Jones is the town’s butcher, which is sort of appropriate given that Corbyn has put the Labour Party as everyone knows it through the mincing machine. And as a veteran of over 500 votes against his own party in 32 years as a backbencher, he is still liable to shout “They don’t like it up ’em!” in the lobby until reminded that he’s now party leader.

Who else? The role of gentle Private Godfrey is played superbly by Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, which I don’t think is ageist. I really can imagine Vince excusing himself and going home for a cup of tea and his sister Dolly’s upside-down cake. The part of mild-mannered Sgt Wilson is a shoo-in for the chancellor, Philip Hammond. John Le Mesurier’s character always suggested a hidden ambition to take command of the platoon, and in one episode he even pulled it off. I suspect Hammond’s loyalty to Captain Maywaring is also superficial. As for the other characters, you can amuse yourselves by choosing who plays whom. And as for the script, that’s being written on a daily basis.

“I know,” says Private Pike aka Boris again, with a mischievous chuckle. “That £350 million a week we were never actually getting back from Europe after Brexit. Let’s give it to the NHS anyway.”

“You stupid boy,” says Captain Maywaring wearily.

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