‘Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead’: BBC Responds as Anti-Thatcher Campaign Pushes Song Up the Charts

The bitter row over Margaret Thatcher's legacy continues — and this time it's spilling onto the BBC's Top 40 radio program.

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The Wicked Witch of the West, left, played by Margaret Hamilton, confronts Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, and Glinda, the Witch of the North, played by Billie Burke, right, in this scene from The Wizard of Oz

Updated: Apr. 15, 2013 at 4:00 a.m. EST

Following her death on April 8, the bitter row over Margaret Thatcher’s legacy continues – with a campaign to get the song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead”, from the movie The Wizard of Ozto number 1 on the U.K. music charts. The song ended up reaching number two on Sunday after selling 52,605 copies. This was more than 5,700 copies behind Duke Dumont and A*M*E with “Need U (100%),” which stayed at the top for a second week. Meanwhile, a rival campaign song, “I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher” entered at number 35 after a late push from Lady Thatcher supporters.

The former Prime Minister, whose time in office was marked by battles with workers’ unions and the privatization of key industries, continues to be a divisive figure in Britain. On the day of her death a number of street parties were held throughout the U.K., some of which turned violent.

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Encouraged by an anti-Thatcher Facebook campaign, people are now downloading the 1939 song, sung by Judy Garland and the cast of the movie, in an attempt to make it the top-selling track of the week.

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The activist Adam Jung, writing for the Huffington Post, called it “a creative way for Brits to correct the national narrative” of Thatcher’s time in office.

But the music journalist Neil McCormick, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said that the campaign would make the song “the most inappropriate and gratuitously offensive number one hit single ever.” And  former Conservative Member of Parliament Jonathan Aitken told a British TV show: ‘People who have respect for Lady Thatcher and her views will not find this anything other than a distasteful affair,” adding that it was “a pretty feeble form of protest.”

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But distasteful and feeble as it may be, the campaign is causing a significant headache for the BBC. By Friday, “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dea had hit number 1 in the U.K. iTunes store, and number 3 on the Official U.K. Chart. BBC Radio 1 ordinarily does a Top 40 countdown on Sunday afternoons, in which every song from number 40 down to number 1 is played in its entirety. But on Friday the broadcaster announced that the song won’t be played in full. Instead, a short clip of will be played as part of a news bulletin explaining that the track has reached that place in the chart. It called the decision “a difficult compromise.”

Meanwhile, a large anti-Thatcher protest in London’s Trafalgar Square was organized this past weekend by a coalition of activists, anarchists and former coal miners, reports the Guardian. And the Sun reports that a London police officer resigned from his post after it was revealed that he had made a number of offensive tweets celebrating Thatcher’s death.

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