It looks like Carol Thatcher is counting the cost of referring to a tennis player as a ‘golliwog’ after being axed from the BBC’s The One Show. The journalist daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made the remark during a conversation with presenter Adrian Chiles and several guests. After being challenged about the comment, she apologised and dismissed it as a "joke". Her position on the show is understood to have become untenable after she declined to issue an unconditional apology to those she had offended. A BBC spokesman said: "We will no longer be working with Carol Thatcher on The One Show."
Conscious of the fact that younger readers of this blog may be ignorant of the term (it’s entirely a possibility), a teeny explanation (courtesy and © Dr David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, Ferris State University, Nov 2000): "Golliwogs are grotesque creatures, with very dark, often jet black skin, large white-rimmed eyes, red or white clown lips, and wild, frizzy hair… The golliwog image, popular in England and other European countries, is found on a variety of items, including postcards, jam jars [Robertson’s used a golliwog called Golly as its mascot from 1910 until the late 20th century], perfume bottles, clocks, books [as featured in some Enid Blyton tales and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers, which showed a golliwog lynched, hanging from a noose], greetings cards…" etc.
May I direct you to Wikipedia’s page if further explanation is required? In short, and depending on your point of view, a golliwog is either deeply offensive on every level racially, or a loveable, cuddly childhood icon.
This brouhaha is rumbling on, as brouhahas tend to do: viewers are complaining to the BBC about their decision to drop Ms Thatcher from The One Show and her spokesperson is demanding an apology. Four things instantly crossed my mind when the story first broke.
1. Why do we even know about all this? If the remark was made in the relative privacy of a BBC green room, that’s where it should’ve stayed. I thought the Beeb had internal disciplinary processes.
2. It immediately brought back my childhood memories of being called ‘golliwog’ at school (I’d almost forgotten that). My mum instructed me to turn the other cheek, but my attitude instead was always ‘wot a bloody cheek!’. Needless to say, I’d then get into trouble for fighting.
3. Where’s Big Ron these days? Ron Atkinson’s ITV punditry came to an abrupt halt in 2004 after an off-air conversation with commentator Clive Tyldesley. Big Ron thought his mike was off and let rip at then Chelsea player Marcel Desailly in an utterly disgusting manner: "He is what is known in some schools as a f***ing lazy thick n***r!" The irony of this is, as manager of West Bromich Albion in the 1970s, Ron Atkinson championed black players. He signed the late great Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis who became known as ‘The Three Degrees’ (they even posed with the lovely ladies of Prince Charles’ favourite group as this picture shows).
4. I am 100% not surprised that jolly-hockey-sticks Carol, totally uninhibited, frank and tewwwwwibly upper middle-class, used an antiquated term to refer to a black man. She’s not alone in displaying a bit of cultural insensitivity. Prince Phillip is the classic example (too many gaffes to list, but during a Royal visit to China in 1986 he told British students: "If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.") and his grandson Harry’s clearly a chip off the old block as the Nazi costume faux pas and recent P*ki row show.
For her part, Carol Thatcher told the Daily Mirror she was "completely baffled by all the fuss". In one respect, I can understand why she’s befuddled. I watched an instalment of Five’s topical morning show The Wright Stuff last year and, while discussing stories from the newspapers, she bemoaned the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest in a manner that exhibited brutal disregard for the feelings of his family. Matthew Wright had to jump in and point out why his loved-ones might have been feeling aggrieved. For all her Academia, she can be rather clueless when it comes to social niceties. Lest we forget, this is the woman that had a wee in the I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! camp, in full view of the cameras, and let EastEnders’ Sid Owen take the blame for it.
BBC arts correspondent David Sillito said the row was about "what is and what is not acceptable to say in a workplace" No it isn’t. Not entirely, anyway. The way I see it, Thatcher-gate is about the BBC being in a post Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand/Sachs-gate/Manuel-gate/whatever-gate-you-want-to-call-it era. The powers-that-be have acted swiftly rather than risk being caught on the back foot again. Some may wonder if Auntie has acted a little too swiftly by axing Ms Thatcher as a roving reporter for The One Show. After all, if private conversations in the workplace are fair game, lord help us all.
Her spokesman told The Times that she made, and I quote, "a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot when she was growing up." Maybe so but whichever way you look at it, it isn’t the most flattering of comparisons to make. There’s just no nice way of saying that a black man looks like a golliwog.
* As this is an emotive subject, I will be deleting any messages that overstep the mark or stray too far from the topic. No swearing please; racial terms must be in context with the originating subject only.
* Due to the fact that I like to think posters here have more imagination, I am issuing a challenge: see if you can express your frustration without using the stock, pat and clichéd, ‘get a life!’ – it annoys the mucus out of me. Come on peeps, do me proud!
Today I am mostly lovin’ – ITV4 are currently using a trailer to promote their Cult Classics strand that parodies The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video, which in turn parodied 1970s American cop films/TV. The segments with The Sweeney and The Professionals work best (for obvious reasons). But I am absolutely LOVIN’ it. Watch it here – it’s genius.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – Here’s my review of Five’s new comedy/drama Minder starring Shane Richie. Says it all really.
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