Morality campaigner retires after 30 years: David Lister meets the scourge of broadcasting standards, who says she was misunderstood

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MARY WHITEHOUSE, 83 and still kicking, announced her forthcoming retirement yesterday and lamented that she had been misunderstood for the past 30 years. The scourge of declining standards on television and the permissive society used to be, she confided, a wild young thing.

'It used to be the case,' she said, 'that not a week went by when there wasn't some skit about me on television. I would always be portrayed in my hat and tweeds, but I wasn't really like that actually.

'I've been called a busybody and a bigot. I found it quite hard at first. For one thing I come from a family with strong artistic leanings and gifts.

'And as a girl I rushed around and had a good time. I was never the kind of stick in the mud that people suggested.'

Asked what being a good-time girl consisted of, the president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association had no doubts: 'I was in the first eleven at hockey, the first team at netball, and I used to ride up and down the country lanes on my bike. A girl could get on her bike and go off then.'

Now, looking a little frail after fracturing her spine recently, and propped up by a pillow at the launch of her new autobiography, Mrs Whitehouse emphasised that, although she would be resigning as president of the association, she would still be a member and available for press comment.

Television was more responsible now than in the Sixties, she said, but there was still an excess of sex and violence.

Much of her venom is still reserved for the late Sir Hugh Greene, director general of the BBC in the Sixties. She has never forgiven a comedy programme with a character called Mrs Dogood and another character called Ernest the Postman, who had killed a dog. Her husband, Ernest, had accidentally run over someone in their village near their home, Postman's Piece, and she found the programme unforgivably tasteless.

Turning to the James Bulger court case and the judge's comments about the influence of video nasties, Mrs Whitehouse said: 'The tragedy is that adults have thought that violent films are entertaining. For many people they are their pleasure.

'. . . If that is supposed to be entertainment while you eat your supper, how in God's name do we expect children to grow up and be able to question it.

'Between them all these films create the climate, and the heart of the matter is the money that is to be made out of it.'

(Photograph omitted)