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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
MP's racist joke: Should she have been sacked?
Senior Tory MP Ann Winterton has been sacked for telling a racist joke at a rugby club dinner.

Party leader Iain Duncan Smith called her comments unacceptable, and said the affair was a "very sorry business".

The incident comes at a sensitive time for race in politics. On Thursday the far-right BNP secured its first council seats in nearly 10 years, and the Tory party has been working hard recently to present a more tolerant image.

Was Iain Duncan Smith right to sack Ann Winterton? Will the affair damage the party's reputation?

This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.


It was a joke. It wasn't funny. That's it

Mark G, England
Maybe I'm crazy but the funniest thing about all of this is all of the po-faced explanations of 'why we should be offended by a joke'. It was a joke. It wasn't funny. That's it. Save your indignation for the truly offensive things in life.
Mark G, England

One question, would there have been the same reaction to an Englishman, Scot, Irishman joke?
Andrew Jordan, UK

Depends if the joke was funny or not.
Johnyboy, UK

The white English elite have for a long time considered it their right to make fun of all types of people, right from working class English to Irish to Pakistanis etc. If only these elitists had not acted in the brutal way they did, with all these other people, in the past there would be no need for PC. So now everyone doubts whether these English elite are just joking when they make such remarks.
Gautam George, UK

First of all, Mrs Winterton is a senior politician and, as such, has responsibility that many "common" people do not have! Hence, damn right she should be sacked. Secondly, it is very difficult for some western, white, middle- class living-in-the-bubble people to understand the depth of "light hearted but not so funny" joke since they are (and should be very glad about it every day of their bubble-life) living in the palace of the modern world. Finally, suggestions of whether substituting Englishmen (whose language is modern Esperanto and whose country is 4th richest in the world) with Asian or African people in the similar joke would make headlines completely ignores the context of this very problem.
Ognjen Marjanovic, UK/Bosnia

Some people have difficulty in understanding the difference between free speech and being downright offensive

Ian Bartlett, UK
Reading the comments on this Talking Point indicates to me that some people have difficulty in understanding the difference between free speech and being downright offensive. Free speech means free for all. By telling an offensive joke indicating that it's OK to kill a certain section of the community; you are denying that section the right of free speech and to be heard on equal terms.
Ian Bartlett, UK

The issue is one of politics not racism. The Conservative party needs to shake off an image of intolerance towards minority groups in order to be electable. It isn't going to achieve this if MP's try to be Bernard Manning. She had to go and she did go. The question now is whether the Tories will succeed in their image change prior to the next election.
Alex Keenleyside, England

People like Bob Duncan, Scotland prove why these jokes are unacceptable. Calling us an idiotic minority shows his ignorance as long as fools like him get a laugh from these jokes. Pakistanis can take jokes but when there's a point to it like if you're messing around with a friend. But what was her reason for the joke? She was at a dinner. It had nothing to do with Pakistanis so I don't see the point of it anyway.
Mubashar, England

I don't see anyone of those who are defending Ann Winteron attempting to deny that she told a racist joke. Most of them trot out the usual hysteria about political correctness but it seems it isn't politically correct (in their book) to call these people racists when that is quite clearly what they are. And hypocrites of course.
Stephen Shephard, UK

It's not a joke when some people in this country still think a Pakistani/Indian is sub-human, and inflict violence on them for fun. Lucky for us that she DID make the remark though, as it's one racist less representing this country!
Anon, UK

People should say anything they please

Joe, USA
People should say anything they please, but they must also understand that when they represent a nation, what they say also represents the nation. Reading comments supporting Winterton's comments, we see how many people stand regarding race. Allowing her to retain her seat would only show that Britain is in concurrence with her racist sentiments.
Joe, USA

Iain Duncan Smith has realised that it is folly to assume that the public is stupid. We can see what really lies beneath anyone capable of thinking up a joke along racist lines. We know that it is a sign of a more harsh and deeper racism hidden away from view. Racist joke in public = fascist in private. Failure to sack racist joker = condoner of fascism in private = no votes from Black, Asian and enlightened White community. Many of us (blacks) support many Tory economic policies - such as removing excessive regulatory strangleholds on businesses especially small business where most of us earn our keep, we've just been unable to support a party that in the past has been out to hamper us.
Amoroso Gombe, Kenya

If this joke was so 'offensive' then why was it printed in several newspapers and web sites? (Including the BBC). When the BBC recently reported on a story about children accessing pornography on the web, there were no pictorial examples shown, and nothing was included in the 'Internet Links' section. Why? - Because this whole 'offensive & racist' thing is made up by the do-gooders PC brigade. This 'story' has only hit the headlines because people have been made to feel unsure how to react to a joke/comment regarding ethnic minorities. People: Poking fun at others is a part of life. It does not mean that you don't like them, nor does it mean you want to fire bomb their houses - get a perspective on this.
Andy, Wales

I find it amusing that the Conservatives of all people are now being accused of "political correctness"! This must be a first. Seriously though, I think IDS took the right decision for once.
John Jenkins, Wales

Anti-racism laws have gone too far in general, and this underlines the point

Chris, UK
Anti-racism laws have gone too far in general, and this underlines the point. Racism isn't going to get any better until they relax all the laws and make them equal to whites, not superior.
Chris, UK

I am an Asian and have come across the same joke many times before. I believe that jokes have a special place in the humour world which need to be laughed off and not be taken so seriously. Maybe Ms Ann Winterton said it at the wrong time and at the wrong place but did not have any racism at heart. If she has already apologised publicly the apology should be accepted with grace and she should be reinstated back again to her MP seat.
Divyesh M, Tanzania

You could pass a comment like that about 'Poms' in New Zealand and you'd probably be elevated in your governmental position. She shouldn't have been sacked, not at all. It was inappropriate, something for behind closed doors. You hear derogatory remarks about British people all the time and not just from ethnic minorities in Britain - nobody loses their job there. And, believe it or not, but there are a lot of Pakistanis in Britain ...
Allan-John Marsh, New Zealand, formerly Co. Durham

I really believe she should be dismissed from her position. ("Sack" what a funny-sounding word) Could you imagine, (in a rhetorical way) if she made a similar joke about Jews (like me) or black people (like my friend Dan)? There would be no question then, I hope.
Krista Sorensen, USA

Political correctness. Guilty of thought crime. Welcome to 1984
Mark, USA, USA

I bet Ann gets more votes next time

Derek Roberts, UK
Ann Winterton is not a racist - she told a joke at a Rugby Club dinner. IDSmith get real for your sake and the sake of your party. This action is just stupid. I bet Ann gets more votes next time.
Derek Roberts, UK

How many non-politically correct people does it take to change a light-bulb? None, they don't need light bulbs because they all go around with their eyes shut.
Leigh, USA

How anyone can vote for either Labour or Conservative is beyond me when, at the last general election, both parties made a public pact not to discuss immigration. If the main UK political parties ignore such an important topic then it truly becomes the blind leading the blind.
Ron Shiel, UK

This sort of racist attitude is typical of the current conservative party's policy of "playing the race card" within the context of Britain's "immigration problem". In my opinion we are all members of one race, the human race, and to pretend otherwise is not only offensive but very dangerous.
Karl, UK

Would she have told the same joke to an audience of Pakistanis? If not, then the "joke" was malicious.
Sanjay, USA

Undoubtedly it was a stupid thing to say in today's climate of tabloid exposure. But give her credit it was a funny joke!
Ian, England

Having lived in all of Canada, the U.S., and Britain, I can honestly say that racism exists to a far higher degree in England than either of the other two. Part of the reason is precisely the fact that people find it okay to make such jokes and tolerate such bigotry, thus setting an example to others that singling others out because of race is okay. I was called a "Paki" many, many times in 2 years in England; and only one time in the rest of my over 20 years in North America.
Tariq, Canada

Have you noticed that the only people talking about "political correctness" are the ones backing Ann Winterton?

John Bainbridge, UK
Have you noticed that the only people talking about "political correctness" are the ones backing Ann Winterton? "Political correctness" doesn't exist, except in the heads of those Daily Mail readers who like to get indignant about it. The rest of us call it "courtesy."
John Bainbridge, UK

Politicians trying to be funny is always a mistake.
Matt, UK

Mrs Winterton actually got it the wrong way round - its politicians who are 10 a penny!
Pete, UK

There is a fine line to be drawn between political correctness and bad judgment. But at a rugby club dinner? Was anybody sober enough to actually remember it? I am half German by birth which can be a bit painful at times. Does that mean that anyone will enforce the sacking of any editor of any Newspaper for anti German sentiment? The World cup is coming up soon. Watch this space.
Jackson, Welling, Kent

Did you hear the Pakistani, Irishman and Chinese man wait. You won't hear it anymore - they've been politically "sensitised". Political correctness is running amok in the UK and Anne Winterton has paid the price. Here's a new joke - how many politically correct people does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: 3500. One to do it and 3499 to make sure that they do it in such a way that can be observed as non-racist, sexist, elitist.
Darren Badrock, UK

As a British Asian I find it a fitting paradox to have spent yesterday in Selfridges celebrating 'Bollywood' culture a day after the furore surrounding Ann Winterton's sacking. The misguided people who have said 'a joke is only a joke' have misunderstood the point of all this public outrage. If we allow those who speak for us in Parliament to make remarks that are distasteful, we condone those who taunt children for being 'Pakis' too. Some jokes just aren't funny - and at a time when far right politics are causing such concern it is even more important that MPs do not make inflammatory remarks.
S Maini, UK

She should have been sacked for telling such a spectacularly unfunny joke...
Jim Stevens, UK

Ann Winterton's comments displayed an amazing lack of judgement - an essential facet for a senior politician

Rahoul Bhansali, London, UK
Ann Winterton's comments displayed an amazing lack of judgement - an essential facet for a senior politician. This is and should only be the reason for her dismissal. We live in a country which prides freedom of speech, therefore it is important not to see this as a PC backlash but as a stupid mistake from a promising politician who should have known better.
Rahoul Bhansali, London, UK

I fear that the 'joke' would not even have come to light if the butt of it had been an Englishman. Sadly racism in this country seems to only be defined as a slur on anyone who isn't stereotypically 'English'.
Ollie J, UK

The first time I heard that joke, the Englishman and Pakistani were substituted by a Scotsman and an Englishman. I wonder if the joke would have been considered offensive if it Mrs Winterton had told that version?
Georgie Godby, UK

The punchline of her 'joke' ("Pakistanis are 10 a penny in my country") was bad enough with its they-don't-matter undertones. But the fact that the whole joke - suggesting that killing them was OK - was so totally unfunny simply illustrates the deep-rooted racism that still exists in British society. Anne Winterton's remarks betrayed a total lack of understanding of the multi-cultural society that Britain now is and that Britain now thrives on.
Andy MacFarlane, Scotland

I must say the joke was not at all funny

Asher Drapkin, UK
The alleged offensive joke was made at a private function. How and why did it become public knowledge? As someone with a great sense of humour I must say the joke was not at all funny. Not even as a 'Ten Pinter.'
Asher Drapkin, UK

Had Ann Winterton apologised immediately and unreservedly she might have been able to salvage her position. But she went on to compound an appalling error of judgement by qualifying her first "sorry" with "if it offended anyone". No wonder she was sacked.
Jane, Wales, UK

Iain Duncan Smith called on the mainstream parties to not surrender ground to the extremists. Did Ann Winterton just misinterpret his sentiments? Last summer I listened to a Radio 4 interview with that vile man who was chairman of the local Conservative association in Wales while answering the telephone for the BNP. He argued that he was representative of Conservative grass roots. Is Ann Winterton simply proving the Tories are essentially a racist shower?
Danny, UK

The law is now unfairly weighted in the favour of non-white migrants to the detriment of all

Wendy, UK
Race hatred is stoked up by perceptions of unfairness involving another group of people. If people perceive that certain groups of people are benefiting from a positive discrimination policy, others who are not will see that as unfair. The law is now unfairly weighted in the favour of non-white migrants to the detriment of all.
Wendy, UK

How Would Mrs Winterton feel about a 'joke' which suggested female Tory MPs for Congleton with initials AW should have been strangled at birth? Apologies are not enough and it's not about being politically correct, it's about using common sense and thinking before you open your mouth.
David Frost, UK

Friends of mine in Northern Ireland came up with a nickname for me: "Frantic frog". I was not offended by it as the context was friendship and "frog" is an accepted term which is not meant to be demeaning. The "joke" however suggested Pakistani people living in Britain are so common it does not matter what happens to them, that they are as important as a cigar in Cuba. This is demeaning and hurtful, and I am happy she was sacked.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

If she had told a sexist joke about men no one would have batted an eyelid.
Gerry, Scotland

Ms Winterton's joke was incredibly offensive

Paul, UK
Let's not kid ourselves - Ms Winterton's joke was incredibly offensive - the very punchline of the joke implies that someone's human life is so worthless that you don't care if you threw a person out of a train - if you were to alter the situation slightly - e.g. make Ms Winterton's party the ruling party in 1940s Germany and refer to the Jewish population instead of Pakistanis, then you would understand why the "joke" is a) offensive and b) extremely dangerous given the position of the speaker
Paul, UK

More votes for the BNP, now you cannot even tell a joke. Whatever happened to free speech?
Mike Hackney, UK, England

The scary thing is that she didn't feel she needed to resign. Of course she should have got the sack. What most people seem to be forgetting here is that it is the Asians and African communities that suffer the worst racism, with statistics proving they are more unlikely to get a decent job or live in prosperous areas.
Rana, Scotland

It shows how the Conservatives will stand for truth and decency

Chris Hawes, Great Britain
Ann Winterton made a terrible mistake. She should have had the self-control and the political sense not to make a racist joke. She was rightly sacked. It just shows how the Conservatives will stand for truth and decency, while Labour lead this country down the road of sleaze and corruption.
Chris Hawes, Great Britain

The way things are going in this country, free speech will soon be a thing of the past. Why not bring in the Taleban and be done with it? Our way of life is being suppressed by an idiotic minority hell-bent on imposing their will on the rest of us in the name of equality.
Bob Duncan, Scotland

I'm a Brit living in Australia. I'm the butt of many 'pommie' jokes. I could take offence but I prefer to give as good as I get and have a laugh. Of course she shouldn't have been sacked. She's the victim of the PC brigade who constantly look for trouble.
Paul Stevenson, Australia

I have had enough of this "Oh come on" complacency. While there are still idiots in society who are overtly (or as is often the case, covertly) racist, we should avoid such jokes. We should make the best of a bad situation and get Mrs Winterton (who may or may not be racist) to do more work with ethnic minority communities.
Mark L, United Kingdom

Thoughtless people like her, and their equally thoughtless remarks, are what fuels race hate in this country

Elizabeth Murray Brown, Scotland
Ann Winterton was rightly sacked. The joke she told was beyond insensitivity to all races. The joke involved, took place on a train journey. In reality, if that train had crashed, and the only help was from the Pakistani, who happened to be a doctor, what then? Pakistanis are "10 a penny" in Britain? Let's be thankful. They're a hardworking, family-oriented people who could probably teach Ann Winterton a thing or two about good manners. Thoughtless people like her, and their equally thoughtless remarks, are what fuels race hate in this country. MPs are supposed to stand as the voice of their constituency. I say good for Iain Duncan Smith.
Elizabeth Murray Brown, Scotland

"In reality, if that train had crashed, and the only help was from the Pakistani, who happened to be a doctor, what then?" Oh purr-lease - it was a joke, not a real life situation! Please try to get a sense of perspective, if not a sense of humour. Incidentally, I know what the full joke was, and I would say that it made the Englishman look like a cretin, rather than tarnishing the Pakistani race in any way.
Laura, UK

Jokes can only be categorised as funny or not; only bad jokes are ever "racist", "sexist" or otherwise in poor taste because the primary intention of people who tell such "jokes" is to demean the subject in hand, and not to be funny. I didn't hear Ann Winterton's joke, but judging by the furore it has caused, I'd bet that it was just not funny, thus rendering the telling of it pointless.
Steve, UK

If this joke was so well received by all present then how did it get into the papers? Inoffensive comments are not reported on. Someone must have been shocked and offended enough to bring this to light, and rightly so. Even as a middle class white person, and a member of a rugby club not too far from Congleton, I found this 'joke' offensive! Mrs Winterton was I understand making and after dinner speech, one which presumably was planned, drafted, written and re-written before being delivered, and anyone with an ounce of common sense would realise it was inappropriate for anyone except a racist to tell. As a prominent politician, Mrs Winterton should be even more aware of what she says than most after dinner speakers. If she truly finds the joke funny then she is racist, no matter what her husband says. If as she claims it was a mistake and lapse in judgement then she should have resigned in the hope that she could return in the next re-shuffle having been suitably apologetic.
Ann, UK

Come on, a joke is a joke. I wonder where this world is heading when one cannot even tell a joke. We all tell jokes about other races or do you mean to say, that when one tells a joke about one's race it is OK but forbidden ground for someone of a different race. I find the sacking uncalled for. This would be a happy world if only people stopped looking for negative things instead of enjoying life. OK she was sacked, what is going to change? Stop people from telling jokes and getting off steam after a hard day's work? The party should spend more time dealing with more important matters to improve life for the poor, education, health facilities etc.
Gazelle Anne, Switzerland

A simple apology should have been more than enough, it was just a joke, and no real harm was intended, why don't we ban Benny Hill as well? In today's views all his jokes was racist as well!
Ozzy Palmer, UK

If Ann Winterton is truly a racist then she has no part to play in modern politics and should go. If on the other hand she is guilty of bad taste then as Jesus said "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." It may have been a black joke or a Welsh joke or an "Englishmen, an Irishman and a Scotsman" joke, or maybe you've called the French "frogs" or made a remark at the expense of a short person or even someone with ginger hair, the list goes on. Either way there are few of us who could cast that stone.
Phil, UK

Sacking MPs on such grounds increases race tension

Tony M, Malta
Joke are just jokes, and should be treat without no important. Indeed the majority of the individuals both in the UK, and in the entire world, say similar jokes. But aren't they racist, and should be punished for such jokes? NO! Sacking MPs on such grounds increases race tension in the country, and therefore, increasing the BNP's popularity.
Tony M, Malta

We owe it to our latest immigrants to show them the same courtesy we show immigrants who came here generations ago

James McKane, Eire
Of course she deserved to be sacked. There will never be a peaceful multicultural society if people are allowed to make racist remarks. All racist remarks should be treated seriously. Anyone making jokes about the English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh would have been immediately fired. We owe it to our latest immigrants to show them the same courtesy we show immigrants who came here generations ago.
James McKane, Eire

The British used to be famous for their ability to laugh at themselves. Would Ann Winterton have been offended if someone from another culture had told a British joke? Would she have demanded his (or her) resignation? I don't think so. In fact, I'd have a rather low opinion of her if she did. I have NEVER been offended by "Paddy Irishman" jokes. I would be offended at a perception that Irish people are so touchy that you can't make jokes about them. I've seen people on television saying that they don't believe she's racist, but that she "has to go" because what she did was so "appalling". Have we all gone mad? And by the way, would she have been sacked if she had made a joke about Catholicism?
Ann Heneghan, Ireland

I don't remember this much fuss when Prince Phillip talked about that famous 'fuse-box'. Perhaps we should sack him also. ...oh that's right, we can't, can we?
Cameron, Scotland

Firstly - ask yourself the question WHY this remark was thought to be funny - what is the underlying social issue here? Secondly - at least the Tories acted swiftly. Imagine if this was a Labour MP. They would never have been sacked.
Jo, London UK

I often marvel at the double standards of today's politically correct crowd. Racial jokes, of course, are not acceptable in today's society. But what about obscene, lewd, and vulgar jokes? And what about jokes that take the name of the God and His son Jesus Christ in vain? Does it not occur to the PC bunch that many people are deeply offended by such off-colour jokes? Does anybody ever demand that politicians be sacked for offending Christians? Shouldn't TV comedians be forced off television for such foul talk? Of course not! Christians don't count as real people!
Rick Wiles, USA

Her remarks were totally out of order for a politician and she got what she deserved

Mike, England
I find it strange that racism and political correctness are seen as opposites. The new buzzword for the right seems to be "PC". Learn some more words! Her remarks were totally out of order for a politician and she got what she deserved. Racism is not a legitimate political viewpoint, it's just irrational hatred that says more about the person spouting it, than it does about the people on the receiving end. It should not be tolerated on any level. One more thing, the BNP will never achieve anything ever. They represent the views of a very selfish, bitter, misguided, minority (read the reasons given for voting BNP in Burnley). The more ridiculous extremes of PC are now on the decline, this is all about respect for fellow human beings. Learn some manners people!!
Mike, England

The sacking of Ms Winterton will only be just, if the same politicians attack statements which are anti-democratic or set against the traditions and values of the nation they are elected to defend. It is certainly just to defend the rights of minorities, but it should not be done if it means ignoring the views and rights of the majority.
Steve, UK

I am glad that the British government is now becoming fair. It was an excellent move to sack her. I lived in England for seven years and suffered constant racist comments yet my university refused to take action saying 'it was my word against theirs" Good for the British!
Sandra, USA

Racism and humour are completely different things. It is possible to make fun of people of different races without causing offence. Black comedians like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock make fun of white people all the time but none of the jokes are mean spirited and most importantly the white people there always found the jokes funny. It's not the joke itself that was appalling but Ann Winterton's remarks which showed a lack of discretion, tact and ignorance of and indifference to current events.
Adewale, Nigeria

I fear that what was said is typical of the Tory party in general

Paul Pekar, England
Yes, she should have been sacked. As an American expatriate living in Europe for more than 32 years, I was amazed by the racial remarks made in England by work colleagues, cricket dinner speakers and neighbours. Unlike in France, where all parties united against Le Pen, I fear that what was said is typical of the Tory party in general and the white public as a whole. I fear that Le Pen has started a movement on the other side of the Chunnel which will reverberate for a long time in England. I hope for the best but fear the worst.
Paul Pekar, England

Oh, come on - this was at a rugby club dinner for heaven's sake. The rugby club, that bastion of sensitive jokes and quiet after dinner speeches mixed with harmonious and delicately phrased songs. The diners were shocked and upset? I bet they were. Pretty soon now, they will no doubt be singing a few verses of Tit Willow and drinking orange juice after a match. This is just political correctness gone mad yet again. This IS England and she used a common enough expression here. What was wrong with it? No wonder the far right is gaining ground.
Allan, UK

After a landslide victory against the National Front here in France, yes my country is saved, but this sacking is a joke. If people think that by forbidding jokes then racism will go away they're wrong. Racism needs to be addressed at the root. For God's sake this PC business has to stop!!!
Louis Barwell, France

Are we now so sensitive about our own dignity that we can't accept being made an object of fun?

Jimmy Johnson, UK
Are we going to be stopped from telling jokes about the Irish? Or perhaps against our mothers-in-law? Should we take the French to the Court of Human Rights for all the jokes told about "Le rostbif" and should we stop calling Germans "krauts"? A joke is a method of letting off steam; pointing fun as much against ourselves as at the victim. It doesn't matter whether we are fat, thin, short, tall, one-legged, Scottish or a country yokel, we can all become for a moment the object of fun. Are we now so sensitive about our own dignity that we can't accept being made an object of fun? I fear for our collective sanity if we have.
Jimmy Johnson, UK

This is not about political correctness. What Ann Winterton said was demeaning and offensive.
K. Ahmed, UK

The sacking might be well deserved. But the worst part of all this is that here is a person who did not think twice about uttering such offensive remarks, and publicly. It did not even strike her as likely to be remotely insensitive, let alone horrendously offensive to many people.
Martin, UK

It's quite appalling that she didn't see fit to resign

Edmund Neill, Oxford, UK
Of course she should have been sacked, and it's quite appalling that she didn't see fit to resign. She is a frontline politician, and was speaking in a public context. What bothers me is those who try to justify her remarks by either saying it's "political correctness gone mad" or that it's alright to make jokes if they're not intended to be racist. Political correctness can mean two distinct things: one is the blanket application of a universal norm, the other is a sensitive application of moral principles. Being PC in the first sense is silly; in the second it is merely common sense. And those who make racist jokes should remember: even if not intended to be inflammatory, they often have consequences beyond the speaker's control. It is right that Mrs Winterton has been sacked - tolerance has to have limits even in a free society.
Edmund Neill, Oxford, UK

Yes. It was a stupid thing to say. Anyone who cannot recognise that such comments will cause offence should not represent a party at its highest level.
Rich, England

Not being able to take a joke is a clear sign of intolerance itself

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
Lapses happen to everybody occasionally. If a joke was in bad taste just ignore it. Do not be a hypersensitive idiot yourself. Most likely the person who told the joke would also like to ignore what was said and forget about it. Not being able to take a joke, however bad this was, is a clear sign of intolerance itself.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

What a dumb thing for a senior politician to do! The question then becomes, how did she get so high up the political chain with so little sense?
Ian Elsley, UK in USA

I really wonder what has happened to mutual respect and tolerance? A racist joke is not a joke. A joke is funny and racism definately is not. And to all of those who wrote complaining about political correctness - shame on you. How comfortable would you feel living, working and contributing to a country where political parties said it was OK for its members to belittle and condemn people just because of the colour of their skin?
Claire Samani, UK

It was right for her to be sacked. First, a racist joke is only funny to the person making it, not to the person(s) it's made of. Second, a politician's comments can influence or set examples to others in a way an unknown on the street cannot. Finally, a person exercising poor judgement casts doubt about his or her capability to carry on jobs requiring those qualities. Finally, if others can be sacked for racism, why can't she?
M. M. Zaman, Uk in US

It wasn't even a particularly offensive comment - it was merely ill-judged

Tom Cleghorn, UK
What I say in the privacy of my own home or to individuals with whom I have a personal relationship is my own affair. But when I am at work, another set of rules kick in, especially if I have a high profile and my remarks are likely to be widely reported. This is not political correctness; it is just plain common sense.
Michael, Canberra, Australia

From the time of Shakespeare right up to and through the likes of the late, great Tony Hancock and on to the present day, what has made British humour stand apart from the rest is it's sarcasm. We ridicule others and by so doing ridicule ourselves. It just goes to show how, with the assimilation of those that would rather be English than their own country's nationals, we now have to watch our P's and Q's so carefully. Ridiculous.
Kevin B, Londoner in US

There was surely no need to sack her - given the jokes anyone can hear in any pub in the country, it wasn't even a particularly offensive comment - it was merely ill-judged. Her apology should have sufficed.
Tom Cleghorn, UK

Political correctness gone mad. The real sadness is that we've got to a stage where people are afraid to speak their mind on certain issues - whether as a joke or in seriousness - for fear of being eliminated for that opinion. When we are being told what to say or think, and ethnic minorities are held up as sacred in this way, the whole country goes mad. That is the real disgrace.
Adam, Leeds, England

I think it was very inappropriate for a Conservative MP to make such a remark, even if it was a joke. I don't think she should have been sacked for it though.
Joey Robinett, Usa

I find it interesting that people who profess to be so shocked seem to feel free to make offensive generalisations about Tories and Tory voters. That stinks of hypocrisy.
Jon Livesey, USA

I always thought Iain Duncan Smith was a bit of a nonentity but I am heartened by the leadership he has shown here. I remember as a boy at public school in the 1960s how "Paki" jokes were all the rage but I cringe now when I think about it. I thought we had all grown up now and decided "Pakis" are not the great unwashed taking jobs from the proud English working class but significant contributors to UK society and economy.
Philip Etherington, Australia

It's not going to manifest itself in racist attacks on the streets

Issamuddin Ahmed, UK
No, she shouldn't have been sacked. As a British Pakistani of course I find her remarks offensive, but we must keep in mind that this reaction will be perceived to be PC gone to extremes and will ultimately lead to further antagonisation. If Winterton wishes to make a fool of herself, then let her. It's not going to somehow manifest itself in racist attacks on the streets. To assume that would be to under-estimate the intelligence of the people.
Issamuddin Ahmed, UK

I tell a lot of jokes that are probably off colour regarding race and sex. does that make me racist or sexist? Of course not, because I know who I can say it to and it isn't necessarily along racist or sexist lines it's along the lines of people who are comfortable with themselves and know when a joke is a joke. And before you start to say that I'm a racist in disguise, not only do I have an adopted Indian brother, but I also have a black girlfriend and a multiracial child.
Neil, USA

Political correctness is an epidemic that is robbing us of our freedom and identity

Matthew, New Zealand
One of the basic tenets of conservatism has always been sincere respect for the individual. How on earth did this woman get as far as she did in a party that supposedly embraces those principles?
David Ireton, Canada

When Ann Robinson made her racist remarks about the Welsh, she wasn't forced to resign from her lucrative contract at the BBC....and Welsh protestors were told to 'get a sense of humour'! So, with this in mind, why has Ann Winterton been sacked? After all, there are far fewer Pakistanis in the UK to offend than Welsh men and women! Or is racism now only restricted to skin colour and one's willingness to riot?
G. Evans, Wales

G. Evans comparison of this story with Ann Robinson's comments about the Welsh is ridiculous. The Welsh are white, mainly Christian, and British. The 'racism' directed against the Welsh is not remotely comparable with that suffered by blacks, Asians and Jews. Of course Winterton should have been sacked. Making a joke to a friend is one thing; saying it publicly is an indication that you find racism totally acceptable. Fighting racism is especially important in the current climate. Duncan-Smith's quick and decisive reaction has made me think much more favourably about the Tories in general.
Jess, Wales

This is certainly political correctness at it's worst. It was a harmless joke and everyone is making a fool of themselves by getting wound up about it. It's not the joke that causes racial tension - it's the reaction to the jokes! Political correctness is an epidemic that is robbing us of our freedom and identity.
Matthew, New Zealand

I do find it rather odd that you are reporting this story as news and asking for a vote on the appropriateness of the sacking, yet you haven't actually reproduced the joke and given us the opportunity to judge it. This seems like curiously selective reporting to me.
Con, England

As a party member I am disgusted that a good, genuine and faithful party minister should be sacked. BNP you can now expect more members. I think that those that are agreeing her sacking must be Labourites. There are many in that party should have been thrown out yet alone sacked over the last few years but Tony holds on to his cronies.
David Jone, Wales UK

The woman clearly is not fit to hold public office - good riddance

John Durnian, England
Ann Winterton's anti-Pakistani remark painfully shows that racist remarks are one of the last fashionable phobias that stubbornly refuses to go away. In October 1983, during the Reagan administration, Interior Secretary James Watt was forced to resign over a flippant quip on the diversity of his staff members. He said, "I have a woman, a black, two Jews, and a cripple." Need I say more?
Daniel J. Hamlow, U. S. of A,

Maybe the joke was in bad taste but don't we all say things in bad taste occasionaly. Don't sack someone please because they decide to speak freely, a lot of lives have been lost over the years so that we can all speak our minds and be free.
Garry Smith, England

All political parties have members who occasionally cross the line. However i am extremely pleased at the immediate and decisive action taken by Duncan Smith, in demonstrating that the Tories will not be accepting any racialist remarks, jokes or not.. Thank you Iain.
Neil Kelly, Huddersfield, UK

Yes,she deserved to be sacked. She displayed a totally inappropriate and thoughtless recklessness about a highly charged and very sensitive political issue. The timing of the folly is not the issue. The woman clearly is not fit to hold public office. Good riddance.
John Durnian, England

Ordinarily I'd say it was a storm in a teacup, but given her senior position AND the fact that she is (or WAS) in public life, such a joke was in very bad taste. Duncan-Smith made the correct decision.
Steve Davies, The Bahamas

This kind of knee jerk, PC hysteria does NOTHING to improve race relations in this country

This kind of knee jerk, PC hysteria does NOTHING to improve race relations in this country. This woman should have been asked to apologize and that should have been the end of the matter. I am not a Tory, but I do believe in freedom of speech and democracy. It's just a shame that the politically correct establishment doesn't share this view.
Steve, Merseyside

This disgraceful episode showed appalling lack of judgement from the politician concerned. She should certainly have been sacked, and quite possibly even prosecuted for this outburst of blatant racism.

It is hard to imagine that this will not in some way affect the credibility of the Tory party, but to my mind it is already so severely dented that it win't make that much difference in the long run. One has almost come to expect this sort of tragic blunder from them these days.
Tim Baxter, England

If she had said that disabled children are "10 a penny" would she still be in her job? Probably not. The Met police did a study that found that when politicians make any reference to race that racial attacks go up three-fold.
Adam Taylor, Bradford, UK

The "joke "was in poor taste and simply not funny.She should have been rapped over the knuckles for it. If she repeated anything like this again then perhaps sacking would be in order.To sack her for this first offence is PC gone mad (as usual)Where is the British sense of fair play and of giving a second chance gone to? Had the comment been made about an Irish/Scots/Welshman /woman I wonder would she have been sacked?
David Douglas, Ireland

I dont know what Ms. Winterton's prior record on race relations in Britain is, but I did live through her party's xenophobic race-baiting - and worse - in London in the '70s.

So, all I can say is -good riddance. Purportedly harmless jokes said in public generally have deep-rooted racist antecedents in attitudes that ultimately get manifested in legislation.

Ms. Winterton can now spend her days enjoying her nation's excellent subcontinental fare over lunch with no fear of being booted out by her own brown-skinned countrymen.
Jay Sitlani, USA

You can be funny without being spiteful

Patrick Matthews
You could just about make a case for Ann Winterton if she was making a joke, I suppose. But I'd hate to have to spend much time with her defenders if that's her idea of humour. You can be funny without being spiteful, or you can be funny and offensive; the third option of being nasty without being amusing is doomed to failure. Can self styled 'opponents of political correctness' explain why what she said was funny, as opposed to crass and stupid ?
Patrick Matthews, UK

Yes, it showed lack of judgement if nothing else.
Pat Swift, England

No and no! How pathetic.
Ian, UK

As a black African, I think the remarks by Ann Winterton were most unfortunate for her if she really is that ignorant but nevertheless the remarks reveal an inner attitude that is held by very many people in the other parties, government institutions, police, and public services.

The fall out from the Macpherson Inquiry threw up the phrase "institutionalised racism" as a new discovery, which was later attacked by Iain Duncan-Smith's immediate predecessor as being no more than "the attitude of the condescending liberal elite."

My feeling is that Ann Winterton's comments were no more offensive than the insidious connotations of the "swamping" remarks made by David Blunkett (a phrase that was first guilefully deployed by the much admired and respected "iron lady"). He wasn't sacked.
Ochuko Udu, England

I think it's sad that the Tory party has fallen into a liberal trap that now does not allow any of its members to say anything not PC.

The joke was in bad taste but an apology was enough

Paul Tomlinson
A joke's a joke, and a joke is often funny when it's not PC - that's is what makes it a joke!! Sure, the joke was in bad taste but an apology was enough.
Paul Tomlinson, UK

Oh yes! She MOST definitely deserved to get the sack! Even in this present day and age, it really is appalling that a senior Conservative party spokesperson would blatantly be simple enough to make a rascist remark, excuse me, a joke about any ethnic minority group. I suppose she thought it would not matter. It's people like her that incite racial tension and cause disunity amongst races in this country. A good sense of humour is good, but may actually be bad when not everyone is laughing. She obviously lacks diplomacy and has proved she was in the wrong job. Well done on your swift decison Mr Ian Duncan Smith.
Ade Oyeyemi, United Kingdom

Welcome to the UK, were people are scared to speak even in jest incase of being branded. The thought police are watching you...
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK

Condemnation of a so-called joke about killing a clearly targeted section of our community cannot be dismissed as 'political correctness'

John Rigby
Speeches by prominent politicians are planned and usually a team effort. If it was done in ignorance it would be bad enough, but if it was to test the water it is more worrying. A so-called joke about killing a clearly targeted section of our community cannot be dismissed as 'political correctness'. Why did it take so many hours before she was sacked? A principled decision would have been made in seconds.
John Rigby, England

It is a sad day that such action is taken, because of a poor joke made in bad taste. Mrs Winterton should have been advised that her joke was in poor taste, but her apology in public should have been sufficient to close the subject.
Peter W. Pearce, USA/UK

She should have been sacked because the joke wasn't even funny

Sacked, for telling a racist joke? She should have been sacked because the joke wasn't even funny. What is this country coming to when even members of the Conservative party can't even tell a funny joke? I blame Thatcher.
Philip, UK

What was she thinking of! Blunkett's slip of the tongue with "swamping" was a fuss over nothing, but this joke was obviously racist. Someone with that little judgement shouldn't be in public life.
David Absalom, UK

This is the voice of the old Tory party speaking

Graham Hadingham, Mauritania
Of course she should have been sacked. This is the voice of the old Tory party speaking. How can the current day party ever expect to attract new supporters when senior members present the very image that the party is trying to consign to the past. She should be drummed out of the party altogether as there is no room for racism in any form in British politics.
Graham Hadingham, Mauritania

It would appear that Ann Winterton is being sacked not for her opinions but because she had the bad judgement to express them. Just what sort of people are running the opposition these days?
Richard Weeks, UK

Good Lord, you Brits are outdoing we Yanks at the hardball game of political correctness. How could such an innocent joke be sufficient cause to oust anyone? You would think she had used the "N" word or the "F" word concerning gays.
Gary, US

Racism does not really exist in the UK

Mark Hickman, UK
It is a sad state of affairs when you cannot tell a joke in bad taste for fear of the anti-racism lobby kicking down your door in a manner befitting the Gestapo. Action such as this serves only to encourage racial hatred, not prevent it. Racism does not really exist in the UK, but the more that harmless remarks such as these are stamped down upon the wider the racial divide will become. And perhaps then the hypochondriacal loudmouths who bother us with this nonsense will discover to their horror what racism really is.
Mark Hickman, UK

Of course she should go - it is simply not good enough.
Rod Corke, UK

Of course not! Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is trying especially hard to look 'tolerant' to ethnic minorities in order to gain votes.
Tim S, UK

A joke is definitely grounds for Winterton to be punished and scolded by her party but it is not sufficient for her being fired

Helen Adeosun, US
Even as a black person in the US we are privy to the soundbite bloopers and racial jokes by major public officials. However, I will say most definitely a joke is definitely grounds for Winterton to be punished and scolded by her party but it is not sufficient for her being fired. If Winterton is fired then of course you give more fodder for parties of the extreme right and most people would see the action as the height of political correctness. She's only human. Being black I know I've made jokes about whites and other groups which were inappropriate. Besides, a joke shouldn't be grounds for dismissal if she is doing a good job as an agriculture minister.

I know there are minorities and others who may disapprove but the more PC we get the more we infringe upon all of our rights to speak and the line has to be drawn somewhere. I also think that this move against Winterton by Duncan Smith smells of politicking. He knows she doesn't have to go but it makes him look better if she does and for all those who are so eager for her to go especially Mr Duncan Smith. I'd like to hear how he makes conversation at a party sometime.
Helen Adeosun, US

Although it seems unfortunate that anyone should end their career with a single sentence, any frontline Tory able to make such an idiotic remark ("joke" or not) is clearly not suited to a place in national politics. The Tory party has - despite notable lapses - fought racism hard, and it would have undermined itself had it retained Ms Winterton in her post.
Francis Murphy, England

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