Is Basil Brush racist?

Police probe puppet fox's gyspy gag

Police are investigating claims Basil Brush is a racist, after cracking a joke about gypsies on his children’s show.

Travellers have called Northamptonshire police to complain that a sketch in which a gypsy woman tried to sell the puppet fox wooden pegs and heather was racially offensive.

And when the woman – Dame Rosie – offers to tell Basil’s fortune, he said: ‘I went to a fortune teller once and he said I was going on a long journey.’

When asked what happened, Basil replied: ‘He stole my wallet and I had to walk all the way home.’

The programme was first shown six years ago – soon after the puppet fox first made his latest comeback - but it was its repeat on the digital channel CBBC on February 21 this year that raised hackles.

Joseph Jones, vice-chairman of the Southern England Romany, Gypsy and Irish Traveller Network, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This sort of thing happens quite regularly and we are fed up with making complaints about stereotypical comments about us in words that we find racist or offensive.

‘Racist abuse of black people is quite rightly no longer deemed acceptable, but when a comedian makes a joke on TV about pikeys or gippos, there’s no comeback.’

The show is written by a team of mainstream comedy writers, including Dan Tetsell and Danny Robins, but it is not known who was responsible for the offending lines.

The BBC did not comment.

Nor is this the first time Mr Brush has caused offence. In 2003, Dr Who writer Russell T Davies labelled him homophobic, after he laughed a ‘gay-bashing’ scene on his children's show.

In that incident, his sidekick Mr Stephen mistakenly chatted up a long-haired main, and was punched in the face – giving him a black eye for the rest of the show – to the puppet’s delight.

Published: 16 Mar 2008

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