You’ve got to hand it to BBC 1 controller, Jay Hunt. Speaking on Radio 4′s Today programme this morning she ably defended the decision to sack Carol Thatcher from The One Show for using the term “golliwog” in connection with a black tennis player. Hunt also quickly squashed comparisons with the offence Jonathan Ross caused back in October, saying he has apologised on several occasions. Ms Thatcher appears not to have yet apologised for a remark made, as Hunt said, “in a BBC workplace environment”.
Speculation has of course centred on who Thatcher was referring to. Someone with lots of French connections tells me the French press were yesterday naming the tennis players as Gael Monfils (above). Today, thefirstpost.co.uk reckons the person in question is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Either way, it seems Thatcher was talking about a black person when she used the G word.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant mined this territory some time ago in hilarious but uncomfortable scenes featuring the hapless Maggie in an episode of Extras. Golliwogs and their associations are still fraught with difficulty. We live in a culture that is still often racist, or must seem so to anyone who isn’t white. So there’s offence all round: to black people; to people who think you should be able to say what you like in certain places; to “gollitoys”. Ultimately the BBC is damned if it does (sack someone called Thatcher for causing offence) and damned if it doesn’t (sack someone called Ross for causing offence).