She had to go
....but I don't see how it is that big a deal.
I would like, first of all, to distance myself from Ann Winterton's 'joke'. It was, in fact like her last one, deeply unfunny. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if she'd spent the two years since her last attempt solely trying to think something of such unhilarity up.
She also had to go. Michael Howard reacted promptly and correctly. He should be applauded.
However, it has been summarily described as a 'racist' joke. Now, defending her in no way, I do not think it is 'racist' as such. Tasteless, wrong, ill-timed, ill-thought-out, but is it really racist? Is any joke which mentions an aspect of nationality or race out of bounds and racist? I don't think that when I joke about an Englishman and an Irishman I am being racist. How is race as a characteristic to be joked about any more out of bounds than any other and should it be? This seems to me to be down to an over-reaction in the media. I woke this morning to hear how "this racist joke could be a disaster for Michael Howard and the Conservative Party, couldn't it?" on my radio. This is completely over the top.
As a public figure Ann Winterton did wrong. She should lose the Party whip. Michael Howard has made this happen. That's it.