Penny Mordaunt, the Carry On Conservative, is surely the Commons' funniest MP – Aidan Smith

Penny Mordaunt is known for her risqué sense of humour – and for ribbing the SNP

Every time I see Penny Mordaunt in all her bouncing blondeness, I think back to an old TV commercial, very much of its time. “Is she or isn’t she?” it asked. Is that attractive woman enjoying a jog in the park wearing hairspray?

Lecherous men would point and ogle until the payoff revealed that, yes, a setting product was in use although a subtle one, unlike the ad, where you half-expected Benny Hill to appear from nowhere and chase the poor girl into the bushes. So, is she or isn’t she? Is Mordaunt going to mount a Conservative leadership bid? It appears not – or not today, at any rate, having insisted she’s not about to be installed in No 10 “like a new boiler”.

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But the fact she’s brushed off the speculation (for now) in her usual knockabout comic fashion will only have endeared herself to the Tory faithful some more. I am not suggesting the party is full of lecherous, pointing, ogling men but try telling me that many of them are not in love with Mordaunt. Or at the very least that they don’t love the slap ’n’ tickle humour of the former magician’s assistant and reality diving show bellyflopper. Benny’s not around anymore but – drum roll, farting trumpet – here’s… Penny!

Penny Mordaunt carries the Sword of State ahead of King Charles III during his Coronation in May last year (Picture: Yui Mok/WPA pool/Getty Images)Penny Mordaunt carries the Sword of State ahead of King Charles III during his Coronation in May last year (Picture: Yui Mok/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Penny Mordaunt carries the Sword of State ahead of King Charles III during his Coronation in May last year (Picture: Yui Mok/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Ancient tradition

How else to explain that at a fundraiser organised by the University of Warwick Conservative Association a wooden sword – retail price: about £14 – fetched £350 in the charity auction having been inscribed with her signature. Boris Johnson’s signed wine bottles simply couldn’t compete, and neither could a cardboard cutout of Margaret Thatcher.

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The buyer was surely a man who was surely remembering, just a few weeks before, how Mordaunt grasped that bejewelled blade at the King’s coronation and kept it upright for a full 51 minutes – an ancient but, in her hands, erotic tradition which must have stirred nether regions throughout the nether Tory shires. What, you think I’m trivialising Mordaunt by making this all about sex? Well, it wasn’t me who once voted her “Britain’s sexiest MP”. I am, though, more than happy to nominate her as the funniest. Even though many of her gags are at Scotland’s expense.

Let’s start with the ones not about us which are, no question, pure smut. It was the bold and bawdy Penny who earlier this year got “frottage” into Hansard, this during a parliamentary debate on the Armed Forces. Another first was “testicles”.

Hilariously, she talked balls during the loyal address to Queen Elizabeth in 2014 when recalling her own naval training. The regulation-issue hints on caring for goolies “in the field” did not, she said, anticipate that some of the enlistees would turn up with the “incorrect kit”. Oh how the House chortled at that.

'Charming fruit-loop’

Did I mention Mordaunt’s career on the high seas? This must be the first piece about her to get halfway through before doing so. Though named after a battleship – HMS Penelope – she’s been accused of bigging up her nautical years, but in her defence could claim this was done by others such as David Cameron who praised her for having “captained a British amphibious assault ship” when in fact she’d been a mere reservist. What is not in dispute is that in another speech to parliament she said “cock” six times. Ostensibly discussing poultry welfare she’d been put up to it by naval colleagues as her punishment for a misdemeanour during training.

It’s this kind of irreverence which has led to Mordaunt being dismissed as a joke figure – the Carry On Conservative and not a serious contender for leadership. She’s been called a “charming fruit-loop” but also “lightweight” and a “buffoon”. Writing in the Mail on Sunday at the end of last year, she admitted: “People sometimes accuse me of not being political enough.”

She’s plenty humorous, though. Certainly for a Tory when the bar was set low by Jimmy Tarbuck, knocked down a notch or three by Jim Davidson and then sent hurtling from its moorings by Roy “Chubby” Brown. And also for a Tory woman because I doubt Suella Braverman or Kemi Badenoch have ever said anything funny and Liz Truss only unintentionally (though Maggie had a few decent one-liners).

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End of the pier

Mordaunt’s Thursday stand-up routines during business questions have become notorious for her ridiculing of the SNP. Were they, for instance, behind Glasgow’s disastrous Wonka experience? Most shocking was her jibe, criticising the number of drugs deaths, about consumption rooms at least providing “somewhere safe and warm to take heroin”. Last week’s crack was at the expense of party high-ups who’ve seen inside “the back of a police car”. Her showstopper remains the Christmas-time “12 days of misery” skit.

But Mordaunt doesn’t hate us, per se. If she was ever to become Prime Minister, I don’t think she would declare war on Scotland or even ring our entire coastline with gunships so huge speaker stacks could blast the songs from HMS Pinafore and Anchors Away, 24/7. She’s praised a “wonderful land” full of “brilliant, creative, open-minded, optimistic and stoic people”. Open-minded, optimistic and stoic, for sure, in the face of those weekly broadsides, but is there anything more to her than them?

Time will tell. The Tories’ inevitable post-election blood-letting will tell. From the perspective of right now, it seems unlikely, after Johnson, that the party would go with another blonde bombshell funster.

Perhaps, then, Mordaunt will be remembered simply as end-of-days, end-of-pier entertainment before the good ship Penny slips over the horizon for good. If so, I’ve liked her jokes – the ones that didn’t sting, anyway – and her raunch. Oh, and her Carry On-carrying of the sword.



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