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Thatcher death: Radio 1 will play death song clip

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  • by STEPHEN MCGINTY
 

THE BBC will not play a full recording of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead – a song from the film the Wizard of Oz – pushed up towards the top of the UK charts by opponents of Baroness Thatcher, on its flagship Radio 1 programme on Sunday.

• Radio 1 to play clip of chart-topping Ding Dong the Witch is Dead song, but will not play full version

• Song’s rise has been part of online campaign following death of Baroness Thatcher

• Sergeant Jeremy Scott resigns after posting offensive comments about Lady Thatcher on Twitter account

• Sergeant Scott wrote he hoped Lady Thatcher’s death was “painful and degrading”

The song has reached number three in the official singles chart after an online campaign encouraged critics of the late prime minister to buy the single. Nearly 29,000 copies of the 1939 track had been bought by yesterday, compared to 40,000 sales for Duke Dumont, who was on course to be number one.

The corporation said the campaign to make Ding Dong the Witch is Dead number one was “distasteful” and that the song would not be played in full.

Instead, the station will air a news item tomorrow explaining why the song is in the charts, during which a five-second clip will be played.

The dilemma of whether to play the song is the first crisis director-general Tony Hall has faced since taking office. His appointment followed the resignation of George Entwistle in November over the Jimmy Savile sex-abuse scandal, after just 54 days in the job.

Lord Hall, a cross-bench peer, said: “I understand the concerns about this campaign. I personally believe it is distasteful and inappropriate.

“However, I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle and a ban would only give it more publicity.

“I have spoken at some length with the director of radio Graham Ellis and Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper. We have agreed we won’t be playing the song in full, rather treating it as a news story and playing a short extract to put it in context.”

Lord Hall had been under pressure from senior MPs and faced a campaign calling for the track to be banned by the BBC.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee at the House Commons, and a former aide to Lady Thatcher, had said that the song should not be played as it was “an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point”.

After Lord Hall announced his decision yesterday, Mr Whittingdale said there was a clear “precedent” for not broadcasting tasteless music.

“Particularly at this time, I think it would be insensitive and many people would find it offensive if the BBC were to broadcast the song,” he said.

“It is now very easy to manipulate the charts and get a record in without anything like the same levels of sales that were once required.”

Gerry Sutcliffe, a Labour backbencher, also backed the decision, saying that Lady Thatcher deserved “dignity in death”.

He said: “Obviously, nobody wants censorship of music or culture, but there has to be dignity in death. While I disagreed with everything she stood for, she was a leader and a prime minister so I don’t think it would be a good idea to promote that single.”

However, Philip Davies, another Tory member of the select committee, said it should be played as the programme was based on actual singles sales.

He described the campaign as “pathetic”, but added: “It’s not for the BBC to define on what basis something is in the charts.”

The BBC has in the past refused to play hit songs if they were regarded as offensive.

Former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith suggested that Lady Thatcher would not have wanted the BBC to ban the song.

“Thatcher was not in favour of banning free speech”, he told The Scotsman. “The BBC should have let the market work. I know some Conservatives are very upset and I don’t blame them, but they need to see that Thatcher didn’t play a role in bringing down the Iron Curtain only to have a virtual one raised to appease critics.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage warned that banning the track would only play into the hands of those promoting it.

“If you suppress things then you make them popular, so play the bloody thing. If you ban it, it will be number one for weeks”, he said. “Personally, I think that the behaviour of these yobs – most of whom weren’t even born when Lady Thatcher was in power – is horrible, offensive and disgusting.

“But much as I hate it, I think that if you ban a record you make a huge, huge mistake.”

Radio 1 controller Mr Cooper said there were “very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence”.

He said: “Let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried.”

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead is on course to become the shortest top-ten single ever when the week’s final chart positions are confirmed tomorrow. The most popular version runs to just 51 seconds.

Supporters of Baroness Thatcher are hoping to propel a rival song, the Notsensibles’ 1979 track I Love Margaret Thatcher, to number one.

A group called “I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher for #1” is pushing for the punk track to re-enter the charts due to its

pro-Thatcher lyrics: “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher/I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher/

I’m in love … with Maggie T.” Meanwhile, Baroness Thatcher’s daughter Carol arrived at her mother’s London home last night after returning from a trip to Spain. Ms Thatcher, wearing sunglasses and a dark-coloured shawl, was driven to the Belgravia townhouse, where she was greeted by her brother Sir Mark.

A spokesman for the family said Ms Thatcher, 59, would not comment ahead of her mother’s funeral on Wednesday.

Wellwishers continued to leave floral tributes throughout the day outside the property. Her former personal assistant Cynthia Crawford visited the house yesterday morning to help collect the flowers.

Mrs Crawford, known as “Crawfie” by the former prime minister, was Lady Thatcher’s personal assistant for 35 years.

Packing a box into her car after ten minutes inside, she told reporters that “things are calming down”.

Julian Seymour, the former director of Lady Thatcher’s private office, also visited the property but declined to answer questions from reporters. Mr Seymour was the director of Lady Thatcher’s private office from 1991 to 2000 and was one of her chief advisers.

TV personality Christine Hamilton left daffodils from her garden on the doorstep.

“She was a good friend,” said the former I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! contestant and wife of former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton.

Policeman quits over death tweet messages

A POLICE officer who posted offensive messages online following Baroness Thatcher’s death resigned yesterday.

Sergeant Jeremy Scott, who worked in a back-office role for the Metropolitan Police, is understood to have written on social networking website Twitter that he hoped Lady Thatcher’s death was “painful and degrading”.

Scotland Yard confirmed Sgt Scott had submitted his resignation and it was accepted with immediate effect.

Commander Allan Gibson added: “This officer’s behaviour was completely unacceptable and it is right that he has resigned.”

Under the Twitter handle @thinbluespeck, which has since been taken down, Sgt Scott said Lady Thatcher’s death was “87 years too late” and added that the world was a “better place”.

Before resigning, Sgt Scott reported himself to the Directorate of Professional Standards, which is responsible for investigating complaints against officers’ professional conduct.

His resignation comes after figures from Scotland Yard revealed that three police officers have been sacked for misusing social media over the past five years.

Allegations linked to the use of sites including Facebook and Twitter have been recorded against 75 Metropolitan Police officers since 2009, with 38 of the claims substantiated.

Prime Minister David Cameron has branded some reaction to the death of Baroness Thatcher as “pretty distasteful”.

Several “death parties” were held on the day she died.

Commenting on the so-called death parties, Sgt Scott reportedly tweeted: “Marvellous stuff! Margaret Thatcher’s death greeted with street parties in Brixton and Glasgow.”

Asked if he was disappointed about animosity towards the former prime minister, Mr Cameron said: “I think the overwhelming sense across the country – and you can see it in the House of Commons – is that we are mourning the loss of someone who gave a huge amount to this country, that was an extraordinary leader.”

Union cheers as Thatcher labelled ‘evil’

UNION members applauded a description of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher as “an evil person” who ruined communities across the UK.

Delegates cheered during the opening remarks at Unison’s health conference in Glasgow.

Marking the former Tory leader’s death, Unison’s Scottish health committee chairman, Tom Waterson, said: “Margaret Thatcher, inconsiderate to the last. If she’d died this morning, what a start to the conference that would have been.

“There has been talk about how Thatcher divided the nation. The way I see it is she divided it into those who were joyous and those who were elated when she died.”

He blamed her for ruining communities with controversial policies such as the poll tax.

“She was an evil, evil person. Colleagues, shed no tears for Margaret Thatcher. She never shed any tears for us or our families,” he said to cheers from the audience.

 

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