A final word on Carol Thatcher

I haven’t been able to avoid this story in the way that I would have wished. One thing that I’ve been wondering about this whole debacle is: why didn’t the BBC insist on Thatcher doing race sensitivity training?

It’s a serious question. It is now clear that she was referring to a black man and not Andy Murray and that being the case, there is no question whatsoever that it was a racist and unacceptable remark. That is not the same thing however as saying that Thatcher herself is racist. Meral Ece, herself justifiably rather intolerant of the special pleading brigade, makes the following point which I think is crucial:

What may have been acceptable 40 years ago, is not anymore. As the ‘Paki-gate, and Sooty-gate’ episodes, and now this, demonstrate that some sections of the privileged classes in British society seem to be living in the era of the Black & White Minstrel Show – hugely popular in its time.

Taking no action whatsoever would have been clearly unacceptable, but I remain unconvinced that simply sacking her was the answer. The resultant row hasn’t changed a single mind about racism and it has degenerated into a partisan spat. The only tangible effect has been to bring back a term that I for one hadn’t heard for years – and you can bet it is now doing the rounds on the school playgrounds. What has burning the witch actually achieved?

By contrast, forcing her to go on a course – possibly at her own expense (or rather, taken out of her own pay) – would have been far more difficult a prospect for those who rushed to Thatcher’s defence to object to. She might well have learned something. And if she had refused to go on the course, she’d have looked very silly indeed. Wouldn’t it have been a more proportionate, and ultimately productive, response?

Finally, let me give the last word to Iain Dale. I try not to make a habit of being nice about Iain, but Derek Draper’s hounding of him over the past few days verged on the bullying, and he makes an extremely astute point here:

Draper’s crowd should be proud of themselves. They rail against imagined racism, yet introduce laws which allow muslim women to be traduced like this.


  1. There’s sackings and then there’s sackings. Sacking Carol Thatcher isn’t like sacking Phil Scolari.

    My understanding* was that she had a very short-term rolling contract (which makes sense because they presumably employed her to milk her post-jungle notoriety for as long as that outweighed her being a terrible presenter), and they’ve chosen not to renew that contract, because she’s not worth keeping on once you add ‘made a racist comment’ to the mix.

    * I admit I have paid even less attention to the story than you have!

  2. My understanding is the same as Ned’s. It’s more like ringing the temp agency and asking them not to send the temp who’s turned out to be a bit too dim to do the job next week.

    She’s also not been “sacked from the BBC” as she’s doing other projects including a documentary on her mother.

  3. I think Ned and Simon are right, but there’s also the fact that some of the reports mentioned that Adrian Chiles was extremely angry about it, and I suspect he’s got enough power now that if he doesn’t want someone appearing on the show, they don’t get on.

  4. I don’t think any of that invalidates my argument – a race sensitivity course could have been held up as the prerequisite to any future work.

    And Adrian Chiles needs to make up his mind. One minute I’m hearing about how outraged he was, the next he is distancing himself from the rumours that he lodged the complaint himself.

  5. I agree that race sensitivity training might well have worked. Like sending Ross home for a couple of months, it would have defused things for the Beeb a bit. And it might even have done Thatcher some good. Jade Goody being dragged off to meet actual Indian people was one of the less stupid things to come out of that spat, I thought.

    Incidentally, has anyone wondered whether Thatcher learned this epithet at Denis and Margaret’s knee?

  6. James, on balance I agree that people like her should have training. This would involve speaking to black and other minorities who suffered real racist taunts and attacks, including being spat at, while being called quaintly: ‘golliwog’, ‘wog’, ‘coon’ etc. Real people who she probably rarely comes into contact with. But then she’d probably refuse and the Daily Mail brigade would be ‘outraged’
    To suggest that she was sacked because of her mother is a joke – she is still presenting a programme about her mother, clearly milking her ‘daughter of the PM’ claim to fame.

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