Top Tory under fire for racist jokes

A SENIOR Scottish Tory was castigated yesterday for making racist jokes at the launch of the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

Jackson Carlaw, a long-time party activist in Scotland and a former office holder, gave the opening speech to welcome activists before the arrival of Michael Howard, the party leader.

He made a series of jokes, most of which failed to raise even a titter, including one about Chinese tourists and another about the Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s chiropodist.

Mr Carlaw said he had met a Chinese couple in Edinburgh who said they were "Tories". He said he was delighted, until he realised they meant "tourists" not "Tories".

He remarked that announcing he was a Tory ten years ago was the equivalent of a "death sentence" but insisted that times had changed and that the Tories were now accepted in Scotland. Indeed, he argued, defeat was no longer an option for the Conservatives, adding: "The only person recorded as saying ‘de-feat’ is marvellous is Robert Mugabe’s chiropodist."

Mr Carlaw had come to the end of his speech, but Mr Howard had still not arrived at the Hampden Park conference suite where the manifesto launch was taking place, so Mr Carlaw continued to make jokes - none of which was racist, but none of which drew much of a laugh from his audience - to pass the time until the Tory leader arrived.

A Labour spokesman said afterwards: "At the same time as the Tories are telling us their attacks on immigrants are not racist, they use their manifesto launch to tell these sort of jokes. Are you thinking what I am thinking?"

Angus Robertson, for the SNP, said: "Michael Howard should clean up his party’s act. The Tories are always going to be the nasty party."

Iain Smith, of the Liberal Democrats, said: "If Howard Flight is not fit to be a candidate, then Jackson Carlaw cannot be fit to be a member of the party. Mr Howard must act immediately."

Mr Carlaw sees himself as a good "warm-up man" for main speakers, but the feeling is that he believes his joke-telling is better than it is.