Prime Minister Theresa May has called for the BBC to explain why it broadcast Jo Brand’s comment about throwing battery acid at politicians.
The comedian made the joke on Victoria Coren Mitchell’s Radio 4 show Heresy on Tuesday night, but has been criticised for inciting violence by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage among others.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said on Thursday: “The Prime Minister has been repeatedly clear that politicians should be able to go about their work and campaign without harassment, intimidation or abuse.
“I note that Brendan Cox has said that violence and intimidation should not be normalised and we should consistently stand against it.
“The Prime Minister shares this view. It is for the BBC to explain why it considers this to have been appropriate content for broadcast.”
Brendan Cox is the widower of Labour MP Jo Cox who was assassinated by a man with far-right views while she was campaigning for the Remain vote in the run up to the European Referendum.
Brand, 61, told Sky News today she believes freedom of speech is “extremely important” in comedy.
The BBC has issued a statement defended airing Brand’s comment.
A spokesperson for the corporation said: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”
Heresy is billed as a “Discussion programme which challenges established ideas and questions received wisdom.”
Brand said during the show: "Well, yes I would say that but that's because certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they're very, very easy to hate
“And I'm kind of thinking: 'Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?
"That's just me. I'm not going to do it, it's purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry."
This is incitement of violence and the police need to act. https://t.co/j3F0jsKGBZ— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) June 12, 2019
Farage took to Twitter to accuse the comedian of inciting violence and insisted “the police need to act”.
During his campaign trail for the European Elections as head of the Brexit party Farage was showered with milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle city centre.
This sparked a trend of throwing milkshakes at right-wing politicians including former leader of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson who was splattered with a milkshake in Warrington.
Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said it has received 65 complaints about the episode of Heresy.
At the end of show, Coren Mitchell said she hoped Brand’s remarks had not caused offence but added that the radio series had been set up to “test the boundaries of what it’s OK to say and not say”.