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Herefordshire UKIP MEP in golliwog controversy
6:03am Thursday 5th June 2014 in News
“LET’S all work together,” says Herefordshire’s UKIP representative, who had been exiled from the Conservative Party after posing with a golliwog for a Facebook photo.
And Bill Etheridge – who was last week elected to the European Parliament on behalf of the West Midlands – said he stands by his decision to use an image of the controversial doll as the front cover of a book he published three years ago.
Mr Etheridge, a 44-year-old white man from Dudley, finds it “bizarre” that it could cause offence.
He said: “It is bizarre golliwogs are considered as having racist connotations.
“I thought of them as cartoon characters.”
Campaigners have long fought to remove golliwogs from the public consciousness.
Police use the Public Order Act to remove them from shops and online retail giant Amazon was blasted last year for stocking a golliwog fancy dress outfit.
An ugly hangover from minstrel-era colonialism, campaigners and academics have linked the reductive and dehumanising character to the reinforcing of racial stereotypes in children.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission refuse to even use the term 'golliwog'.
An EAHRC spokesman said: "It's an issue of common sense. Obviously an item like this could cause offence."
And, Mr Etheridge himself said he would no longer feel comfortable having one in his house.
However his book, entitled ‘Britain – a post political correctness society’, decries the fact these “loveable rag dolls” had fallen foul of what he refers to as the ‘Political Correct brigade’.
"The only people who have expressed outrage are white liberals," said Mr Etheridge.
However he described his own electioneering among ethnic minorities as increasingly ‘fraught’, to the point where campaigning at what he referred to as "cross-ethnic events" has become problematic.
He said: “The main argument against political correctness is that it divides; as a MEP hopefully I will have the platform to raise awareness.
“The last thing I want is to offend people.
“But we all have a right to have a conversation about this.”
In 2011 the Conservative Party disagreed.
They suspended both Mr Etheridge and his wife for bringing the party into disrepute after they posted pictures of themselves with golliwogs, meant, they said, to spark debate.
However he found a new home with Nigel Farage's party, and is one of 13 UKIP MEPs, two of whom will represent Herefordshire as West Midlands representatives, heading for Brussels.
Mr Etheridge says he has a broad background – with experience sitting on NHS boards and a failed run at the police crime commissioner job – and a wide range of interests.
His now-deleted ‘About Me’ section on his website, for example, featured celebrated African-American general Colin Powell , alongside heavy metal guitarists in a list of people he admires.
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