WOMEN cannot be set up to fail, Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt said as she told how female navy recruits were given lectures and practical demonstrations on caring for ‘your penis and testicles’.
Ms Mordaunt, who is also the parliamentary private secretary to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, recalled the mishap as she welcomed measures to review the roles in the services that are barred to women.
The Conservative prompted laughter among MPs, including Prime Minister David Cameron, as she noted while the advice on ‘how to care for your penis and testicles in the field’ was fascinating, it failed to appreciate some of those attending may have received the incorrect kit.
The tale emerged as Ms Mordaunt helped make history with Liberal Democrat Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) as they became the first women to propose and second the Loyal Address in response to the Queen’s Speech.
Ms Mordaunt, proposing the Loyal Address, gave a speech which drew heavily upon Portsmouth, while celebrating the armed forces and the role of women.
She also touched on, among other issues, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, compensation for mesothelioma victims, her appearance on celebrity diving show Splash! and a hedgehog mascot named ‘Eric Prickles’ in honour of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Ms Mordaunt told the Commons: ‘I am proud that this government is to review the roles in our services currently barred to women to make sure we make use of best talent.
‘In doing so there must be no compromise of standards but we must recognise we cannot set women up to fail. Training must be tailored to enable us to be our best.
‘I have benefited from some excellent training from the Royal Navy.
‘But on one occasion I felt it was not as bespoke as it might have been - fascinating though it was, I felt the lecture and practical demonstration on how to care for your penis and testicles in the field failed to appreciate that some of us attending had been issued with the incorrect kit.’
Ms Mordaunt opened by referring to the last woman who proposed the Loyal Address, Lady Tweedsmuir, 57 years ago.
She said the-then Aberdeen South MP mentioned many things could still be considered relevant today.
Ms Mordaunt told MPs: ‘She started by extolling the strengths of Scotland in the United Kingdom.
‘She then set out the challenges facing the country, forging a new relationship with Europe based on trade and cooperation, the creation of a new defence able to respond to Russian aggression and of growing the economy - fusing the gigantic resources of the old world to the new.
‘She then discusses the cost of living, reform of the Upper House and finished by advocating the advantages of having more women parliamentarians.’
Ms Mordaunt said the response Lady Tweedsmuir received from the then-Opposition leader, Hugh Gaitskell, was not able to stand up to scrutiny today.
She said: ‘Mr Gaitskell, with gallant intent I’m sure, replied to a nodding Commons that Lady Tweedsmuir had probably made some good points but that he, alas, was unable to response to any of them for such was the distraction of her soft, attractive voice – wait for it – and so struck was he that despite being a grandmother, she was rather easy on the eye, he found it quite impossible to concentrate on anything she had to say.’
Ms Mordaunt joked Labour leader Ed Miliband now had a ‘very modern man’s dilemma’, in which he could risk insulting her by replying on solely the issues she raised and by not remarking she was a ‘softly spoken charmer’.
She added if he did compliment her, he might risk the ire of the ‘Labour Party’s women caucus’ and be potentially subject to newly outlined proposals to recall MPs.
Ms Mordaunt went on: ‘Whatever he decides to do, I hope this marks the end of the parliamentary leap year – women parliamentarians should be allowed to propose more than once every 57 years.’