By Ian Dunt
MPs are demanding the BBC back down over plans to play the song Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead on the official singles chart this weekend, after a concerted campaign to make it number one.
The Judy Garland song has been seized on by opponents of Margaret Thatcher to celebrate her death from a stroke earlier this week and it has already sold 20,000 copies since Monday.
A collection of right-wing newspapers – which just recently were campaigning for media freedom against the Leveson report –have also demanded the BBC desist from playing the song, no matter where it ends up in the charts.
Media committee chairman John Whittingdale even appeared to threaten a tough session with new BBC director general Tony Hall if the corporation went ahead with the programme as usual.
"This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point. Most people will find that offensive and deeply insensitive, and for that reason it would be better if the BBC did not play it. It's a political act," he said.
"Sometimes the BBC has taken the decision not to play a record because it is offensive, such as the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen, but that is a matter for the director general, who will be appearing before my committee in two weeks."
The BBC previously refused to play the Sex Pistol's God Save the Queen during the Silver Jubilee when it reached number two in the charts.
The BBC is refusing to say whether it will play the song and insists a decision will be made at the weekend. However, it would not deny reports in the Guardian that it planned to play the track if it reached above five in the charts, along with a Newsbeat explanation of its appearance for its younger viewers.
Tory MP Philip Davies, who usually adopts a right-wing position on political issues, insisted it would be absurd for the BBC to censor the song.
"It's a chart programme so if it's top of the charts they have to play it. It's not for the BBC to define on what basis something is in the charts," he said.
"However I think this whole campaign is pretty pathetic really if the best these left-wingers can achieve in their lives is to campaign for a song."
The film, which comes from the 1939 Wizard Of Oz film, reached number four in the midweek charts and is at number one on iTunes.
It includes the lyrics: "Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead/She's gone where the goblins go/Below, below, below."
Supporters of Thatcher have tried to rally around Madonna song True Blue - the codename used for her funeral – but it shows little sign of competing with the Judy Garland track.
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By Ian Dunt