Ding Dong & Mrs T. It’s simple: don’t buy it and don’t ban it

ding dong ozAs journalists look to extend the reason to continue writing about Margaret Thatcher’s death, three quick points from me on the entirely bogus furore over whether the BBC should play Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead on Radio One…

1) Don’t buy the record
At least not in protest against Margaret Thatcher (if you just like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ please ignore). It doesn’t matter to me that it boosts Sony’s profits — though the anti-corporatist left might — but, seriously, is calling the first female prime minister a ‘witch’ the best those who disagree with her policies can do?

2) Don’t ban the record.
The irony of the right-wing media — the Mail, Telegraph and Guido Fawkes — urging the BBC to self-censor itself by refusing to play the song on its chart show would be remarkable if such inconsistency weren’t entirely unsurprising. Freedom extends only to the things they approve of, clearly. These are the same people who fear the ‘chill effect’ on journalism of a post-Leveson world, yet want which music the BBC plays to be subject to their whim.

3) Don’t make me agree with Nigel Farage. Please.
“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.” Yep.

Let’s just let those who think it’s so outrageously lol-arious get on with it, remind them that childish sexism probably isn’t the best way to win an argument, and leave the BBC to play the music people have bought.

Update 1: Good on Nick…

Update 2: Meh from the BBC…

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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47 Comments

  • Its not that hilarious, but then neither was the destruction of our industrial base and the frittering away of oil revenues, or the use of unemployment as a weapon. Personally, I think if Thatcher was so popular, her supporters can propose their own celebratory song and get that to the top of the charts. I’d rather the people loathed Thatcher and everything she stood for went and downloaded a record than rioted, which was what used to happen in the 80s.

  • Paul McKeown 12th Apr '13 - 1:06pm

    Can we please stop with all this Hildamancy, please? It’s getting a bit dull.

  • The BBC shouldn’t self-censor (“itself”?) and the right should stop its paranoia. This is when uber-liberals like Mark Littlewood can safely agree with Ming Campbell who so eloquently suggested the condition may afflict Charles Moore on last night’s BBC ‘Question Time’ .
    Thatcher’s official biographer is putting it about that the BBC “behaved itself” for a day but thereafter its mindset has been causing great offence to “every right-thinking person” – a phrase uttered without a hint of irony. Let’s hope his book sells in large quantities alongside the download of ‘Ding Dong… ‘ and to this end I notice it is being freely given away with every new subscription to ‘The Spectator.’

  • Simon McGrath 12th Apr '13 - 1:51pm

    @alistair “Its not that hilarious, but then neither was the destruction of our industrial base ”
    manufacturing output was higher at the end of her period in office than the beginning. and it has continued to grow.

    Low value work has of course moved to China/India etc as it as always going to whoever was PM.

  • “seriously, is calling the first female prime minister a ‘witch’ the best those who disagree with her policies can do?”

    ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ is a much more direct statement about the impact of Thatcher’s policies. But something tells me that a campaign to get that to number 1 wouldn’t have found favour either.

  • Agree it is a bogus furore at the BBC, it is something that ALL networks that play The Offical Charts Company chart will have to handle.

    But then I find the need to have “a Newsbeat reporter explain why a song from the 30s is charting to Radio 1’s target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds – none of whom will remember Margaret Thatcher’s controversial premiership.” totally daft and condescending to this group of people that many regard as being sufficiently mature and informed to vote!

  • Just an FYI, if you look at UK manufacturing output during MT’s time in power it actually increased so the idea she destroyed manufacturing is debatable. In fact the UK is still currently in the top ten manufacturing economies, google it.

    Many of the industries which went the way of the dinosaur were well in decline by the time she took over. Coal mining….seriously? Just because a welsh mining town is stuck in the Industrial Revolution we should subsidise loss-making mines indefinitely?

    Just thought I would give some balance, I’m a potential Lib Dem convert and quite disappointed to see the same irrational hatred displayed by Labour voters also exists among Lib Dems.

  • @Simon – plenty of high value work moved to Germany, despite their higher cost base. Was that also inevitable? Thatcher supporters claim that everything bad that happened was inevitable, and anything good that happened, even the end of communism in eastern Europe was down to Maggie. As I’m neither a blue or a red I can honestly describe the many areas of the UK blighted for a generation or more, whilst also celebrating the fact that I get electricity 7 days a week. Still – on balance a negative legacy from my perspective.

  • “Seems fairly mild compared with what a lot of us called her at the time!”

    Indeed. One of the strangest reactions I’ve seen was “They never said these things about her while she was alive.”

    What planet were these people on in the 1980s?

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Apr '13 - 3:13pm

    @ Chris and Tony Greaves: Couldn’t agree more!!

  • Melanie Harvey 12th Apr '13 - 3:25pm

    Is this really the best her opponents on the left can do ? If so, there should be no problem and not much effort required in winning over their base only intelligence in order to, secure their vote in the next election !!!!

  • Alex Sabine 12th Apr '13 - 3:27pm

    Agree with Stephen (and Farage – even a stopped clock is right twice a day!). Banning things simply because they are distasteful or objectionable is almost always counter-productive, as well as wrong in principle. Let’s not turn the sickos behind this into martyrs for freedom of expression.

    As Philip Davies, a stridently right-wing MP and Thatcher devotee, has said (to his credit): ‘I think this campaign is pathetic, small-minded and mean-spirited… But to be perfectly frank the BBC have a chart show and as far as I am concerned they are obliged to play what is in he charts. It is not for the BBC to look at the basis on which something is in the charts, it is a programme of fact.’

    (That is different from the editorial judgement the BBC has to take over how much air time and credibility it gives to what I suspect are extremely small groups of rent-a-yobs from the hard left holding ‘death parties’. This is the point Charles Moore was alluding to, rather clumsily I felt, on Question Time last night.)

  • @Chris – Planet South-East, I think.

    Please let this horrible, mawkish and naff circus come to an end soon, if only for the sake of those who might miss her (but it is looking increasingly like politics are being played, and the situation badly misjudged, and I don’t mean by Ding Dong).

  • And another thing. I think the BBC is severely delusional about the importance of the Radio 1 chart show (which I must admit I assumed had been scrapped years ago along with Top of the Pops).

    Do they think families still congregate dutifully around large mahogany wireless sets every evening? They do realise, don’t they, that ‘Ding Dong’s’ chart position represents downloads from the Internet, not vinyl discs sold over shop counters?

  • Well, an awful lot of people just didn’t like her and is it really any more distasteful than spending ten million quid and exposing a constitutional monarch to accusations of political bias so that the Conservative Party can relive the past glories of a leader they all lined up to stab in back. 23 years ago?

    And boy is it catchy.

  • jenny barnes 12th Apr '13 - 4:00pm

    Let’s hope that the literal death of the lady, and a very powerful lady she was, will coincide not only with the beginning of Spring, but with the metaphorical death of the economic philosophy that bears her name. I think the Tories are making a huge mistake celebrating her works, but no doubt we’ll see come the election.

  • It’s a juvenile riposte and I won’t be buying it but trashing constitutional precedent, recalling parliament for a day of praise like some tinpot dictatorship, spending 10 million quid of taxpayers money on a private citizen, politicising the monarchy and armed forces, and dragooning us all into a nation day of mourning for a highly partisan and divisive politician is shameless, sinister, and offensive to millions of people in this country.

  • “The appropriate solution is obvious. The BBC should play the song with the words voiced by an actor.”

    Or perhaps by Gerry Adams?

  • Your second point misrepresents those who object to the Leveson principles.

    Everything that has occurred is entirely consistent with First Amendment style free speech. A publisher (the BBC) proposes doing something, other people object, and the publisher makes the final decision. In a Leveson style system of regulation the final decision would not be made not by the BBC, but by some “independent” regulator. The Mail is often inconsistent, but not on this issue.

  • Clegg can take solace – you only know you’ve arrived in politics when you start to be attacked.

  • Al McIntosh 12th Apr '13 - 7:32pm

    So on a day when there is a rare positive story about the Lib Dems in government…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22120467

    Jo Swinson getting tough on internships and promoting social mobility, do we get anything about it on LDV?
    No, our editors instead give us an umpteenth story by Stephen Tall praising or defending a tory.

    It is time for the LDV editors to decide whether they are going to give us news about the Liberal Democrats or whether they might not be happier at Conservative Home where they can worship tories to their heart’s content.

  • If the BBC refuse to play that song it will not be because it has been ‘banned’ and nor will it be ‘censorship’. We should stop using these terms to describe what individuals and organisations decide not to say or do! It is their choice whether to play it, the choice is not forced upon them by any authority.

  • @ Paul Walter”The appropriate solution is obvious. The BBC should play the song with the words voiced by an actor.”
    So you believe Judy Garland & The Munchkins were for real, do you? How obvious is that?

  • The BBC is a public service broadcasting company paid for by a legally enforced fee. It is refusing to play the song because of its intent and is thus making a politicised decision. What it’s saying here is that it can offend one section of voters and licence fee payers by devoting hours of airtime to a pomp and circumstance shindig for politician many of people did not like or vote for, but cant play a three minute song in it’s entirety.

    Margret Thatcher was divisive, The state funeral in everything but name is divisive and there was no public demand for it. This coerced mourning is about the Conservative Party’s inflated opinion of itself and a former leader aided by a press that equally believes it speaks for a larger section of the population than it actually does. It should never have been considered. and certainly not funded by the Tax payer in a recession. I did not hate Margret Thatcher, but I object to this nonsense,

  • @Al – you’ll find all the good news is coming out now because Wednesday will be a “good day to bury bad news”.

  • The BBC decision is absolutely priceless. They’re going to broadcast, in place of the song, a news item saying, in effect, “This song has gone straight to number 1 but we’re not going to let you hear it.” No doubt a large percentage of the audience will immediate download it from the Internet instead, and if 1% of them do it through iTunes …

  • Alex Sabine 12th Apr '13 - 8:51pm

    @John – That’s true, but if politicians start calling on broadcasters not to broadcast something, those lines become blurred and we are into dangerous territory. Particularly when the broadcaster concerned has its main source of funding determined by the government.

    I was alarmed by the comments of the MP Gerald Howarth, who described this as ‘a major test for [the new BBC director-general] Tony Hall’ and went on to describe the BBC as ‘the state broadcaster’. He warned that allowing the song to be played would be ‘a very serious dereliction of duty by Tony Hall’, implying that consequences should follow.

    Sir Gerald should pipe down and have a word with his right-wing colleague Philip Davies, who at least seems to understand that the test of freedom of expression is whether we allow things we don’t like, or find distasteful, to be said or broadcast.

    As I said, the Beeb (and other broadcasters) still need to make editorial judgements that include questions of taste – but politicians should keep the hell out of it.

  • I am amazed that the Tax Payers’ Alliance (sic) has not commented on the cost of the funeral.
    Normally, since they always know the price of everything – albeit also the value of nothing – it’s very hard to avoid their self-publicising pronouncements. Perhaps someone should ask them ?

  • “Anyway if you are tempted to download a Thatcher tribute song I’d recommend the deeply ironic ‘I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher’, by Burnley’s finest punks the Notsensibles.”

    Which is actually anything but a tribute to Thatcher, despite reportedly being touted by Thatcherites as some kind of riposte to ‘Ding Dong’. Probably it’s fitting that the whole affair is rapidly descending to the level of farce.

  • Paul Pettinger 13th Apr '13 - 2:07am

    Remember that you can buy soft copies for other people, such as through iTunes – I’ve bought three copies

  • sexism in the Left glee at promoting Ding Dong is nonsense. This is about the level of fuss created around a politician lots of people did not support, The fact is people are being force fed establishment triumphalism and some of them balk at it. If I’m honest, I balk at it. I’, am liberal and a republican.. I don’t like this stuff either, I don’t think Thatchers legacy is up to much.. She was divisive, economically dismal and left the country in a mess by 1988. What next, Are we going to be asked to celebrate Tony Blair. These were not good prime ministers, These were people who won election despite being abysmal. because they fit some childish version of what a leader should be, Thatcher despite the rhetoric ran a monstrous deficit and presided over huge unemployment for her entire time in office, She was ian incompetent, who hit on a few important social changes, And I don’t like being asked to celebrate someone who stigmatised Gay people, used the security forces against opponents, locked people up for years without trial, banned films,and books , plus saw Nelson Mandela as a terrorist but was friends with Pinochet and Jimmy Seville is worth the effort,

  • @Dan Falchikov
    I don’t understand the principle of referencing something you’ve written yourself, especially when it doesn’t have anything of substance in it:

    “And if you don’t think it is sexist – imagine juvenile right wingers doing the same on the death of Harriet Harman. There would be outrage.”

    Speculation. Besides, Harman has hardly had the same impact on this country.

    “There’s also a perverse jealousy that a reactionary party had a women leader and PM before the
    supposedly progressive Labour party. ”

    Speculation and no evidence whatsoever.

    “The sense of certainty that only the left can be progressive, fair and principled couldn’t cope with the fact that the right had achieved something ‘progressive’ that to this day the left haven’t.”

    Speculation. You haven’t referred to any evidence or reasoning. Your entire argument is based on personal prejudices that you’ve thought up off the top of your head.

    “left’s glee”

    Everyone on the left is gleeful? Who is being juvenile?

  • Paul In Twickenham 13th Apr '13 - 8:33am

    From Wikipedia about the official announcement in the House of Commons about the death of Bobby Sands MP:

    Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”. The official announcement of Sands’ death in the House of Commons omitted the customary expression of sense of loss and sympathy with the family of the member.

    Respect for the dead and sympathy for the family of the dead? Thatcher wasn’t big on that kind of stuff.

  • ““And if you don’t think it is sexist – imagine juvenile right wingers doing the same on the death of Harriet Harman. There would be outrage.”

    Barbara Castle then – also a divisive figure in her time.

  • @ Glenn
    “cant play a three minute song in it’s entirety.”

    Agree with every word you wrote but the song is only 51 seconds if played in its entirety ! Yep, just 51 seconds !!

    Without the likes of the Mail & Telegraph making a huge fuss, there would have been a much less effective campaign to get the song into the top 10 – their behaviour has guaranteed mention by every TV station & newspaper so if the song hits the No 1 spot, it’s partly down to the right-wing media – LOL !

  • oops too late – already bought it! lol

  • Alex Macfie 13th Apr '13 - 8:55pm

    @Paul In Twickenham: I think her anouncement on the death of Bobby Sands was correct and to the point. At the time Sinn Fein/IRA had no interest in or desire for peace, and it seems absolutely correct of her to note that organisation’s lack of respect for human life or human rights.

  • Paul In Twickenham 13th Apr '13 - 11:04pm

    @Alex Macfie – Mrs. Thatcher was entitled to describe a dead MP as a “common criminal” who “took his own life” while others might describe him as a “freedom fighter” who was fighting for the principle that he should be treated as a “political prisoner”.

    On the same basis I will continue to describe her in death in exactly the fashion that I described her while she was alive. Consider it my tribute to her.

  • Ed Shepherd 14th Apr '13 - 8:00am

    “Ding-Dong…” has many disadvantages as a song about the death of Margaret Thatcher. It wasn’t written about her and it can be open to accusations of sexism and ghoulishness. “Ship Building” is a beautiful song that rewards repeated listening but refers to only one instance in her reign and might cause offence those who fought or lost relatives in the Falklands War. “Tramp The Dirt” down is a strong, angry message but might be considered ghoulish. More obscure stuff from the punk era might provok interest for a short while but doesn’t have widespread appeal and sounds dated. Might I suggest “Accident Waiting To Happen” by Billy Bragg? It is by turns angry and reflective (the singer even reflects on the quality of his own feelings), it dates from the time of her resignation and it does not celebrate her death but dismisses her era. Yes, Billy is the best one.

  • ” “Ship Building” is a beautiful song that rewards repeated listening but refers to only one instance in her reign and might cause offence those who fought or lost relatives in the Falklands War.

    Words fail me.

  • Susan O'Brien 14th Apr '13 - 10:22pm

    It’s a relief to read your comments here. The impression has been given to those of us who are not members of the Lib Dems that Margaret Thatcher was as much revered by Liberal Democrats as by the Tories. That seemed so unlikely that I have sought this website out to see that it is only the Beeb in its new weirdly emasculated persona that thinks that. Thank you all for your comments – refreshing and helps to correct the rather surreal feeling that the last few days have returned us all to an airbrushed version of the 1980s.

  • I do think it is surprising that the BBC played in full the Notsensibles song – described by the band as a ‘piss-take’ of Thatcher – while censoring ‘Ding Dong’ – which (obviously) doesn’t actually refer to Thatcher. If offensiveness were the criterion, I’d have thought playing a ‘piss-take’ of someone three days before their funeral would qualify. But apparently because it had been bought by supporters of Thatcher (and without the disapproval of the tabloids) it was deemed to be acceptable.

    What the BBC has ended up doing – under pressure from politicians and the press – is censoring material not based on its content, but based on a judgment about the political motivations of the people buying it – and it has decided that the political motivations of those on one side are right, and the motivations of those on the other are wrong.

  • @Paul In Twickenham: Bobby Sands a “freedom fighter”? He supported the use of violence to undermine the policy of a democratically elected government. He was therefore not a political prisoner as defined by respectable organisations such as Amnesty International. I would not have expected this country’s political leadership to give him a glowing tribute any more than I would expect them to give one to Nick Griffin should he die.

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