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Music

BBC faces dilemma as anti-Thatcher song tops chart

John Lydon – aka Jouhnny Rotten -- performs with The Sex Pistols at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif., Oct. 25, 2007. The Pistols’ 1977 tune “God Save the Queen” is among the tunes the BBC has banned from its airwaves. AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File

LONDON: The BBC came under pressure Friday to ban the Wizard of Oz song “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” from its airwaves as it surged towards the top of the British charts following the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Opponents of the “Iron Lady” launched an Internet campaign to push the song from the much-loved film “The Wizard of Oz” to number one after the country’s first female premier died Monday of a stroke at the age of 87.

The publicly-funded BBC, the world’s largest broadcasting organisation, has not commented yet on whether it will play the song on the radio when the weekly chart comes out on Sunday -- three days before Thatcher’s high-profile funeral.

John Whittingdale, a Conservative lawmaker who chairs parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee, said the song should not be played.

“This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point,” he told the Daily Mail newspaper. “Most people find that offensive and deeply insensitive, and for that reason it would be better if the BBC did not play it.”

The Official Charts Company said the song was at number three on Thursday, currently closing the gap on the chart leader by 2,000 copies a day but still 12,000 behind.

Britain’s right-wing Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers have led moves to have the song banned.

The Mail called it an “insult to Maggie.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that new BBC chief Tony Hall, whose predecessor resigned last year following the scandal over late paedophile television host Jimmy Savile, has refused to ban the song and told staff further down the chain it is an “editorial decision.”

Songs the BBC has previously banned include “Je T’aime... Moi Non Plus” by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (1969), “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols (1977) and “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1983).

Baroness Thatcher has proved as polarising in death as she was in life.

The state is sparing no expense on her funeral with Queen Elizabeth II set to attend the first funeral of any British prime minister since Winston Churchill in 1965, and world leaders past and present on the 2,000-strong guest list.

Opponents of Thatcher, whom they accuse of destroying the British industry and society with her free-market economic policies, staged rowdy parties on the night of her death, while many Labour lawmakers boycotted a parliamentary tribute to her on Wednesday.

Her official biographer Charles Moore, whose authorised account of her life will be published immediately after the funeral, accused the BBC itself of trying to promote the song.

Conservatives have long said the British Broadcasting Corporation has a left-wing bias, which the corporation denies.

“Basically the BBC’s trying to get this ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead’ up to the top of the charts by going on and on and on about whether it should be banned, and all this nonsense,” Moore, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, said in a BBC television debate.

Moore said that because of her role in the defeat of the “Eastern bloc” led by the communist Soviet Union, Thatcher was more like the heroine Dorothy in the 1939 classic movie than the witch whom she defeats.

“The reason that song is sung, I think, is that the witch that’s dead is the Wicked Witch of the East,” he said. “And it was Mrs Thatcher who defeated the east, and in this tale and this song Mrs Thatcher is Dorothy.”

Thatcher has long inspired creative anger against her policies.

Primal Scream lead singer Bobby Gillespie told AFP in an interview he was delighted to hear of her death.

“I was very happy when I heard the news. My friends were texting me and everybody thought it was great,” the Scottish singer said in Paris.

The son of a union official, Gillespie, 51, said Thatcher’s policies had profoundly shaped modern Britain.

“Really, she’s not dead, she’s just gone,” he said. “Because the policies she put into practice -- privatisations, attacks on the welfare state, attacks on [the] health [service], attacks on the educational system, basically her war against the working class -- these policies have been living [on].”

As a result, he said, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government with the Liberal Democrats was now “doing things she could only have dreamt to do, but back then the working class and the trade unions were so large and powerful.”

 

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