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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 12:42 UK

Peppa Pig withdrawn from Labour party election event

Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson on Peppa Pig's pull-out from a Labour event

The company which licenses children's TV character Peppa Pig has withdrawn her from a Labour party election event.

The pre-school character was due to appear at a children's centre as part of Labour's launch of their manifesto for families.

But E1 Entertainment said it had agreed the character should not attend the event to avoid any controversy.

The British cartoon series, which follows the pig, her family and friends, is shown in 180 countries.

Its five-year-old central character helps to promote the government-funded Sure Start children's centres.

In a news release, Labour had said it was delighted that Peppa Pig had accepted the party's invitation to join Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper and Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell on a visit to a children's centre to highlight Labour's policies to support families.

But TV channel Five, which broadcasts the series, and the programme makers, told the BBC they knew nothing about it.

The show's distributor, E1 Entertainment, said Peppa Pig had been invited but would not now be appearing.

It said: "Peppa Pig is a well known fan of Sure Start children's centres but, in the interests of avoiding any controversy or misunderstanding, we have agreed she should not attend."

'Very unfortunate'

Aimed at children aged two and above, Peppa Pig won a children's Bafta in 2005 for best pre-school animation.

Asked about the change of plans, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said he had "heard a very bad rumour that it was, in fact, the intervention of the BBC, with Channel Five, that prevented the appearance of Peppa Pig".

"Although Peppa Pig and her production company were absolutely delighted to come out today, BBC managers got on to Channel Five and started stirring up trouble over it, and tried to put Peppa Pig back in her box," he added.

Unfortunately Peppa Pig is a global media star, acclaimed around the world, very busy, has many dates in Peppa's diary
Ed Balls
Schools Secretary

"It's all very unfortunate. Anyway, I don't know what goes on between the BBC and Channel Five over these matters.

"It's all far, far too political for me to understand."

A BBC spokesman said this was "hogwash".

"A BBC journalist simply made a journalistic enquiry [to Channel Five]," he said.

"It is certainly not the case that the BBC contacted Channel Five corporately over this."

Schools Secretary Ed Balls joked at a Labour news conference: "Unfortunately Peppa Pig is a global media star, acclaimed around the world, very busy, has many dates in Peppa's diary."

He also claimed that in the past at a joint appearance the character had expressed support for Sure Start centres and the Child Trust Fund.

A spokesman for Gordon Brown said the prime minister and his family were "big fans" of Peppa Pig.

"He understands that she has a very busy schedule and so couldn't make it."

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