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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Sacked MP regrets dismissal
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and Congleton MP Ann Winterton
Mr Duncan Smith acted swiftly to sack Mrs Winterton
The Conservative frontbencher sacked for telling a racist joke says she regrets her dismissal, but accepts the decision.

Ann Winterton's departure as shadow agriculture minister came after she told a racist joke at a rugby club dinner in Cheshire.

I accept with both sadness and regret but without question subsequent developments

Ann Winterton
Sacked Tory frontbencher
The Congleton MP had earlier refused to resign but in her first comments since the dismissal has tried to draw a line under the affair.

Mrs Winterton said: "I have already stated that I apologise unreservedly if I offended anyone by the remarks I made in a speech at a private rugby club dinner on Friday evening."

'Work continues'

She added: "I accept with both sadness and regret but without question subsequent developments.

"All I ask now is that I be allowed to continue my constituency and parliamentary work and responsibilities as a backbencher."

Lord Taylor of Warwick
Lord Taylor: More needs to be done to improve race relations
On Monday, Conservative chairman David Davis said racism in the party would not be tolerated.

Mr Davis was defending his party against accusations from Tory peers that it was "self evident" that there was racism within its ranks and that it was not doing enough to promote better race relations.

'Self-evident racism'

He said Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith had acted "rapidly and decisively" in sacking front-bencher Ann Winterton after she told the racist joke at a rugby club dinner, in Cheshire.

But senior black Conservative peer Lord Taylor of Warwick called on the party to adopt a more pro-active approach rather than reacting to bad news.

We are very determined that we should have proper good race relations with proper tolerance and respect for everybody

David Davis
Tory chairman
And Baroness Flather said Mr Duncan Smith should meet Pakistani community leaders in the area to reassure them he wanted to better connect with ethnic minority groups.

Lord Taylor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Simply sacking Ann Winterton is like putting a sticking plaster over a wound."

Baroness Flather welcomed the sacking but said more needed to be done.


She told the same programme: "I can't deny that there is racism within the Conservative Party because it is self-evident.

"I don't think that Conservatives actually know enough people from ethnic minorities."

She said they needed to learn more about different cultures and viewpoints.

She said Ann Winterton probably made the joke because she did not know any Pakistani people.

Mr Davis refused to accept that racism within the Conservative Party was "self evident".

Instead, he said there were examples of racism throughout British society and racist remarks such as Mrs Winterton's were not uncommon in Britain.


But within the party people from ethnic minorities were gaining posts, he added.

"What we have got to do, our duty and responsibility, is to make sure that we don't tolerate the sorts of comments that are offensive to minority communities," he said.

"We are very determined that we should have proper good race relations with proper tolerance and respect for everybody.

"We have to be permanently vigilant about this sort of issue, because if we are not, then it is very difficult to actually debate on a rational, civilised, tolerant, respectful basis things like immigration, race relations, asylum seeking."

Mrs Winterton's replacement has yet to be appointed.

See also:

06 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Tory's golly joke 'moronic'
20 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Senior Tory regrets Spice joke
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