PENNY Mordaunt has defended herself against claims she called a parliamentary debate on poultry so she could use rude words to honour a navy dare.
Ms Mordaunt, the Tory MP for Portsmouth North, was accused by a Sunday newspaper of staging a discussion on animal welfare purely to sneak in risqué words by using phrases such as ‘cock-up’, ‘cock-a-hoop’ and ‘cockerel’.
Last night, the MP admitted using the words to pay off a light-hearted fine issued by Royal Marines training officers as a punishment for not finishing her salad during meal time at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.
But Ms Mordaunt, who serves in the Royal Naval Reserve, denied staging the speech purely for those reasons.
‘To excuse the pun, it was killing two birds with one stone,’ she told The News.
‘I was being trained by the navy and the Royal Marines had trainers present.
‘The guys gave me a fine and I was perhaps wrong but I saw this as an opportunity to get rid of it.
‘We have what we call an Easter adjournment, where people can stand up and talk about an issue of their choice.
‘It is not the case that I organised the debate with that subject in mind, so I could use those words.
‘That is not the case.
‘The article also insinuated that I have not campaigned on these issues – I have.
‘I have done a lot with the Hen Welfare Council.
‘I saw it as an opportunity to get rid of my fine.
‘I did not orchestrate the debate for that purpose.’
Portsmouth City Council’s Labour group leader and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Portsmouth North seat, John Ferrett, said the speech showed ‘contempt for the electorate’.
But the allegations were dismissed by other local political figures who said there were more important things to be talking about.
Councillor Ferrett said: ‘She is showing contempt for the electorate.
‘To do that in a parliamentary debate when there are some very serious issues being discussed seems to be very frivolous.’
But Ms Mordaunt said: ‘I would really disagree. I would not have done it otherwise. It was not orchestrated for that purpose.
‘I have been encouraged by the comments on The News’ website and people who have given me support online.’
Former council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Lib Dem candidate for Portsmouth South, said: ‘I think there’s a lot more important things to be talking about.’
And Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock added that the row over Ms Mordaunt’s comments was ‘a load of twaddle’.
Dozens of people voiced their opinions online at portsmouth.co.uk.
One comment read: ‘She helped save Hilsea Lido, Portsmouth FC and perhaps some time in the future our freedom, as a navy reservist. Top hen.’
Another said: ‘Much to do about nothing. If we lose our sense of humour we don’t have much left do we?’
And another wrote: ‘...It makes you wonder how seriously the MP in question takes their job, a job representing the people who elected her in the first place.’
Ms Mordaunt said that since the article was published yesterday, she has been invited to speak at a number of armed forces charity fundraisers.
Asked about comments online saying her actions show she is ‘out of touch’, Ms Mordaunt responded: ‘You put yourself in front of the democratic process. I had not set out to offend anyone and the people of Portsmouth know me.’