London (CNSNews.com) - A senior British Conservative legislator was removed from her party post over the weekend after making an allegedly racist joke about Pakistanis.
Tory rural affairs spokeswoman Ann Winterton joked about throwing Asians from a train and described Pakistanis as being "10 a penny" in Britain - an expression roughly equivalent to the American phrase "dime a dozen."
She made the joke after dinner at a rugby club on Friday night. The comments were leaked to the Sunday Mirror newspaper and Winterton apologized late Saturday.
The Conservative Party issued a statement Sunday that said Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith found Winterton's joke "unacceptable" and "offensive." He fired her from the rural affairs position but she will remain a member of the party and of the British Parliament.
Winterton, a fierce advocate of hunting rights, was condemned by civil rights groups and several members of her own party.
Lord John Taylor, a leading black conservative and member of the House of Lords, said Sunday that Winterton had shown an "appalling lack of political judgment."
"Many of us are concerned about the rise of the far right in Europe, in particular the racist Le Pen in France, so this is a very sensitive time for Mrs. Winterton to make such a stupid joke," Taylor said.
Party chairman David Davis said the Tories had to be "permanently vigilant" about racism.
"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," Davis told the BBC.
"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.
Monday was a public holiday in Britain and Winterton could not be contacted at her London offices or her district office in Congleton, northwest England. Her husband Nicholas, who is also a Conservative lawmaker, issued a statement on her behalf Sunday.
"The leadership of the party has taken a decision. That decision is accepted without question," he said. "Both of us accept that decision with sadness and we will give the party our support as we have always done in the past."
"I'm not racist. My wife's not racist," he said. "She apologizes unreservedly."
In addition to hunting, Ann Winterton has been a vocal proponent of capital punishment. She has also campaigned against embryo experimentation and pornography.
As a leading spokeswoman or "front-bencher" for the Conservatives, Winterton would have been favored for a cabinet position if the Tories were to reclaim control of Parliament.
E-mail a news tip to Mike Wendling.
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