Isle of Wight Council leader Lora Peacey-Wilcox shared a picture on Facebook which appears to show a large collection of the highly offensive “golliwog” dolls in a display case in her living room
Image: Solent News & Photo Agency)
A council leader has sparked fury after refusing to resign over an image she posted online showing a large collection of golliwogs in her living room
The dolls, which were popular in the 1970s but are now considered racist and highly offensive, were visible in the background of a Facebook picture shared by Isle of Wight Council’s Lora Peacey-Wilcox.
The photo was first made public last November, but three months later the 58-year-old is yet to explain herself – leading to raging temperatures at the Wednesday night meeting.
Infuriated councilors say Peacey-Wilcox has offered ‘no explanation’ or ‘apology’ for the dolls.
In a statement released after the council spat, Peacey-Wilcox denied owning the dolls and said she has reported harassment and blackmail over the image to police
Council members are calling for her resignation in the hopes of putting to bed a debate that has plagued them for months.
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Cllr Peacey-Wilcox has now been given a week to respond to questions – with the local authority chairman fuming he will not allow the ‘distraction’ to continue and bring the island into ‘disrepute’.
And in the latest twist to the saga, the council leader has gone to the police claiming to be the victim of a hate crime herself.
The scandal escalated this week when an evening meeting of the council morphed into a shouting match after the mention of the controversial dolls.
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Calls of ‘racism’ as well as members of the public shouting ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ were heard.
Amidst the bickering, Council Chairman Geoff Brodie was forced to restore order by halting the meeting and clearing the public gallery before continuing.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, who is of the Alliance Group and has served on the council for over 18 years, has denied owning the dolls and said she has complained to police that she is being harassed and blackmailed over the image which she has since deleted.
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Councilor Joe Robertson, Chair of the Conservative group on the island, asked the council leader if she thought the number of ethnic minority people living on the island ‘too small in number to bother about’.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, who lives in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, refused to respond to questions on the dolls during the fiery meeting and instead told councilors she would respond in writing.
The Facebook post, made on Bonfire Night (Nov 5) last year, showed her two dogs seemingly in discomfort with the caption: ‘Fireworks [blasting] over Northwood!’.
However, in the background of the photo, more than ten figures which look to be golliwog dolls can be seen in a glass display case with a light illuminating the display.
Councilors are now demanding a ‘full account’ of why the dolls were seen in the photo in order to protect the island’s reputation.
In a meeting of the full council held at County Hall in Newport earlier in the week, Cllr Robertson quizzed Cllr Peacey-Wilcox on the dolls, telling her silence was ‘not acceptable’.
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The 37-year-old, who also works as an advisor for a national charity, said of the image: “We have all seen the image… in the foreground are your dogs asleep – and in the background is a display of racially offensive dolls.
“As leader of the council, please can you explain whether those dolls were displayed in your home in November?
“You shared the offensive image in public – silence is not an acceptable answer.”
Father-of-two Cllr Robertson’s speech was initially drowned out by shouts from the public gallery.
One man was heard shouting, ‘Don’t answer it, Lorna’ and a woman’s voice said: “I am witnessing harassment and bullying… this is disgraceful behaviour.”
After an adjournment the meeting continued with an empty public gallery, and Cllr Robertson added: “[This was] a racially offensive post by a council leader with no explanation and no apology.
“If you were leader of a London Borough Council you would have had to resign some time ago.
“Do you think the ethnic minority population on the Isle of Wight are too small in number to bother about?”
Other councilors are demanding the leader delivers a full account of why the racist dolls were in the picture.
Cllr Peacey-Wilcox has since confirmed making complaints of harassment and ‘potential blackmail’ to police, saying: “I am aware of the allegations. [regarding the golliwog dolls]. I can confirm I have no such items in my house.
“I should mention that this relates to an allegation of harassment and potential blackmail of me; the matter is now being looked into by the police.”
In a statement, Hampshire Constabulary confirmed they were investigating a ‘hate incident’ in connection with the photo.
Illustrations of golliwog dolls first began appearing in children’s books in the late 19th century.
They are characterized by jet black skin, white-rimmed eyes, inflated red lips and frizzy afro hair – similar to other racist depictions of black Africans such as minstrels, pickaninnies and ‘mammy’ figures.
Today, the term golliwog is regarded as a racial slur towards black people.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.