BBC Dad’s Army row: Hysterical Remainers claimed TV sitcom caused Brexit

Su Pollard fondly remembers Dad's Army writer Jimmy Perry

Fans of the classic sitcom were left baffled after the broadcaster issued a “discriminatory language warning” before replaying the Dad’s Army film from 1971. The film, which stars the likes of Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, follows the ageing Home Guard platoon’s formation, and subsequent trials at completing a training exercise. Dad’s Army became a firm favourite with TV fans during the late Sixties and early Seventies, as it mixed comedy with the antics of World War 2 life, striking a chord with many viewers.

However, after the BBC issued its warning, BBC2 fans hit out at the broadcaster, asking: “What has the world come to?”

The broadcaster said the warning came as a word used in the film was a “derogatory name for a black person”.

It added: “Since Dad’s Army first aired public attitudes have changed significantly and guidance was given at the start of the programme due to a specific discriminatory remark.”

The broadcaster is regularly targeted with claims of bias, and after the referendum result in 2016, which saw the UK vote to leave the EU, author and TV producer Daisy Goodwin said the BBC had to stop repeats of the sitcom.

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The writer behind ITV drama Victoria said that the old episodes had convinced the public to back Leave, as opposed to Remain in the vote four years ago.

She said that if people wanted to blame the BBC “for influencing the nation’s state of mind about Brexit”, she suggested critics look at how many times Dad’s Army is repeated.

Ms Goodwin believed the only way for the BBC to “maintain its claim to impartiality” was to retire Dad’s Army from screens.

She added: “The world of Dad’s Army is a comforting place – it was reassuring during the mayhem of the three-day week and it’s soothing to those of us who worry about the effects of a no deal Brexit.”

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The producer also likened characters from the show to members of the Cabinet, during an interview with the Radio Times.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis “sounded like Corporal Jones” – one of the older characters, with the catchphrase “don’t panic” – while then-Chancellor Philip Hammond “has Sergeant Wilson’s hangdog look about him”.

She added: “There is more than a touch of wide-boy Walker to Boris Johnson, perhaps the Conservatives, indeed the whole nation, need to be reminded that we are not living in Walmington-on-Sea.

“Our current difficulties will not be resolved with a comic flourish and a jaunty burst of Bud Flanagan.”

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Walmington-on-Sea is the fictional seaside town the Home Guard were protecting from Nazi invasion during World War 2.

The Home Guard was made up of locals who were unable to take part in regular military service, mainly due to being too old to join the Army or the Navy.

It was up to them to take on the German enemies if they invaded from across the Channel.

Brexit and the sitcom have often been related, with European Commission deputy president Frans Timmermans once claiming then-Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiating team were running around like “Dad’s Army idiots”.

Speaking in 2019, Mr Timmermans claimed Mr Davis “didn’t have a plan” on how to progress Brexit.

He said: “The first time I saw public utterances by David Davis, and I saw him not coming, not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere, I thought ‘oh my God, they haven’t got a plan.

“That was really shocking frankly because if you don’t have a plan — you know, we see it — time’s running out and you don’t have a plan. It’s like Lance Corporal Jones you know ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’, running around like idiots.”

The newest row bears a similar resemblance to the dispute over the BBC removing episodes of Fawlty Towers from its streaming service last year.

It was argued that jokes in an episode called ‘The Germans’ had become outdated, and Dad’s Army fans fear a similar fate could await their TV favourite.

Tony Pritchard, a member of the Dad’s Army Appreciation Society, said people are “judging programmes made 50 years ago by what people think today”, adding: “Where do you draw the line?”

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