It makes us sick

Angry WI forces Little Britain cuts

The Women’s Institute has forced the BBC to edit a Little Britain sketch depicting their members as homophobic racists who vomit at the mere mention of a black person.

The organisation lodged an official complaint about the characters Judy and Maggie, just days after star David Walliams bemoaned the fact the show didn’t seem to be offending anyone.

But the 220,000 members of Women’s Institutes did take umbrage at the damage the portrayal of them as bigoted Tory-supporting bastions of Middle England was doing to their image.

In one sketch, Maggie vomits over a Tory MP when she discovers the hors d’oeuvre she is eating is based on an Ainsley Harriott recipe, and in another Judy regurgitates a jam at a village fete on learning it was made by a woman who married a black man.

So the National Federation of Women’s Institutes wrote to the BBC demanding changes, including the removal of the WI logo from the sketches, and the corporation capitulated.

When the show transferred from BBC3, where it was seen by a record-breaking two million viewers, to the mainstream BBC1 earlier this month, all references to the organisation were dropped. Judy and Maggie now belong to the fictional Women’s Association.

A spokesman for the broadcaster said: “We were contacted by the National Federation of Women's Institutes regarding an episode of Little Britain.

“We were making some minor changes to the show before it was due to be transmitted on BBC1. As we were editing the show, it was easy enough to amend the relevant part of the programme so that there is no mention of the Women's Institute.

“It has never been our intention to cause any offence or upset to members of the WI.”

Federation treasurer Sally Roberts told one newspaper: “We don’t mind comedians having a laugh at the WI and the jam-making image but we had to draw the line at any implication that our members are homophobic and racist.

 “We are working very hard to show women that the WI is open to all. The implications in this sketch on a popular BBC show were damaging and hurtful.”

Published: 30 Dec 2004

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