Manning vows to tone down jokes

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The comedian Bernard Manning yesterday promised to tone down his controversial act after objections to his "offensive and vile" racist jokes. He survived an attempt to stop the renewal of the entertainments licence at his Embassy Club in Manchester when it came before the city's licensing committee.

Hitesh Bhatt, 33, a shopkeeper, told the committee that Mr Manning should have his licence taken away because of material he had used at a recent charity dinner which was taped secretly and shown on a recent World in Action programme.

But the comedian had the licence renewed for a year after councillors learnt their powers were limited. Mr Manning told the committee he would "try to tone it down, I promise you that. It is up to me and I shall do it".

Pat Karney, secretary of the ruling Labour group, said councillors joined the Chief Constable and the Bishop of Manchester in condemning what they saw on the television programme as "offensive and objectionable and vile".

Mr Karney, a councillor in Harpurhey, Greater Manchester - where the comedian has run the club for 36 years - suggested its licence should only be renewed for six months to give Mr Manning the chance to improve his act. He said: "Bernard Manning is one of the most talented comedians in this country and would be on our TV screens every week if he dropped some of his vile racism and sexism."

Mr Bhatt, who was the only objector to the licence, said: "I came to ask the simple question whether racist remarks are a valid form of entertainment and what the council wants to see in pubs and clubs. Do we need this sort of provocative material?"