(LONDON) — The third most popular song in Britain is 74 years old and was originally sung by Munchkins. “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” has not been re-released, nor has it been covered by a popular artist.
The original Judy Garland version of the Wizard of Oz classic that celebrates the death of the wicked witch has reached number one in U.K. iTunes and has sold almost 30,000 copies thanks to an online campaign by people who are celebrating the death of Britain’s only female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Earlier this week, Thatcher died from a stroke at the age of 87. Many people mourned the woman that British Prime Minister David Cameron said “saved our country.”
But many others think of Thatcher and explode in fury, blaming her for polarizing the country, violently cracking down on her opponents and pursuing policies that increased inequality. Her critics took to Facebook to encourage people to buy a song that equated her with the wicked witch — and they have responded in droves.
Britain has hotly debated whether the weekly Official Chart Show on BBC Radio should play the song — as it does every song at the top of Britain’s charts — or skip over it out of respect for Thatcher and her family.
On Friday afternoon, the BBC tried to straddle the middle ground between honoring the charts and honoring Thatcher, announcing it would only play a snippet of the 50 second tune and present it in a news context.
“It is a compromise and it is a difficult compromise to come to,” BBC Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said. “You have very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence. Let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried.”
Cooper’s announcement came after days of debate.
“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,” argued John Whittingdale, a member of parliament from Thatcher’s Conservative party and the chairman of parliament’s Media committee.
Whittingdale and others point out the BBC has temporarily banned songs in the past. During the Thatcher-launched Falklands War, the BBC banned “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” by Split Enz because references to faulty boats were deemed bad for morale. The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” was banned during the Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee, and three Beatles songs have even been banned for references to drugs and sex.
But many others, including some of Thatcher’s most fervent supporters, have argued the show itself should not manipulate the charts.
“Much as I hate it, I think that if you ban a record, you make a huge, huge mistake,” argues Nigel Farage, the head of the right-wing libertarian party, UK Independence. “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.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN