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Sunday, 5 May, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Senior Tory sacked over racist joke
Ann Winterton
Ann Winterton is vice-president of the rugby club
Ann Winterton has been sacked from her post on the Conservative front bench for telling a racist joke.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith offered the shadow rural affairs minister the option of resigning but she refused, insisting that an apology she had made earlier was sufficient.

On Friday Mrs Winterton told a rugby club dinner in her Cheshire constituency of Congleton how an Englishman threw a Pakistani out of a railway carriage coach because, the Englishman said, they were '10 a penny' in this country.


It is staggering that there are still senior politicians in the Conservative Party making jokes of this kind

Mark Oaten
Liberal Democrats

Mr Duncan Smith said her remarks were "offensive and unacceptable" and the whole affair was "a very sorry business".

The Tory leader contacted Mrs Winterton on Sunday morning at her constituency home, where she lives with her husband Nicholas, also a Conservative MP.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "I believed her remarks were offensive to a large number of people and from a member of the shadow cabinet I thought that was unacceptable."

He said he hoped the "swiftness" with which he sacked Mrs Winterton had "drawn a line" under the controversy.

'Unfortunate'

Many of the 160 guests at the Congleton Rugby Union club, where Mrs Winterton is vice-president, were shocked when they heard the joke, the Sunday Mirror reported.

Lord Taylor of Warwick
Lord Taylor of Warwick had called for her to go
BBC political correspondent Nicholas Jones said the party had initially decided to stand by its minister but then "retribution was swift".

"The party was caught unawares - somebody had given the Sunday Mirror the verbatim of the quote," he said.

"Mr Duncan Smith... has made it abundantly clear that he will not permit racism."

The sacking followed calls by Lord Taylor of Warwick for Mrs Winterton's removal.

Lord Taylor said it showed an "appalling lack of political judgment" and called for the Tories to be "proactive" on racism.


The joke was unfortunate particularly in light of the fact that three BNP councillors were elected in Burnley this week

Commission for Racial Equality

"Iain Duncan Smith did act swiftly, I give him credit for that," he said.

"But this is the Conservative Party being reactive.

"All they're doing is putting a sticking plaster on a wound - they can't just wait for the next wound to erupt."

Mrs Winterton had apologised for the joke, saying: "I unreservedly apologise if anyone was offended or took offence to what I said."

Tony Cupper, chair of Congleton Conservative Association, said she should have resigned before being fired.

But he added: "I have known Ann for many, many years and I have never heard her say anything or do anything that would lead one to believe that she was racist in any form."

The Commission for Racial Equality described Mrs Winterton's joke as "unfortunate", adding that this was particularly so "in the light of the fact that three British National Party councillors were elected in Burnley this week".

'Extremely bad'

It said it was encouraged by the dismissal and applauded Mr Duncan Smith for showing leadership.

Liberal Democrat party chairman Mark Oaten said: "It is staggering that there are still senior politicians in the Conservative Party making jokes of this kind.

"Although Iain Duncan Smith has done the right thing in sacking her it does beg the question of fundamental the reforms of the Conservative Party really are."

Restaurant owner Anan Islam, who sponsors Congleton Rugby Union Club, said he was planning to withdraw his support for the club following Mrs Winterton's comments.

Mr Islam, who owns the Taste of Raj, in Congleton, has sponsored the club for several years but condemned Mrs Winterton's comments as "extremely bad".

He said: "She is not an ordinary person, she is a public personality and she cannot make that kind of comment."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rachel Hooper
"The Tory leader decided she had to go, he asked her to resign, she refused so he sacked her"
Alyson Roylance-White, Congleton Conservative Assoc.
"Ann is greatly liked within the constituency and has told many good jokes in the past"
Shazia Mirza, Comedienne
"It's just not funny"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Tory race row
Did MP deserve to be sacked over joke?
See also:

05 May 02 | UK Politics
Analysis: Racism and the Tories
05 May 02 | UK Politics
Ann Winterton: A 'family values' Tory
05 May 02 | UK Politics
String of Tory race gaffes
24 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tory expelled over BNP row
20 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Senior Tory regrets Spice joke
06 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Tory's golly joke 'moronic'
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