Well, well, the BBC has got itself into a proper tangle over whether to play "Ding dong, the witch is dead", now standing at number three in the charts after a campaign to demonstrate feelings about the recently deceased Baroness Thatcher. An uneasy compromise has been announced by the Beeb, with a "clip" of the song being played as part of a "news item". Since the song is only fifty-one seconds long anyway, a clip may well go un-noticed.
It's easy to understand the offence that could be caused by playing the song, before a funeral has even taken place. It's hardly a precedent, since in years past, BBC has banned a number of tracks, including "Give Ireland back to the Irish" by Wings, "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols, and even "Boom bang-a-bang" by diminutive popster Lulu, which was removed from airplay during the first Gulf War.
Of course, times change, and almost all of the songs once banned by the BBC are now played on a regular basis. However, censorship has always been arbitrary. For example, it's hard to understand how songs like "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed escaped the censors, other than they presumably had no idea what "giving head" meant.
Is the BBC's muddled solution the correct one? Since it will probably attract complaints from both sides, it may be seen as maintaining impartiality. In a few months time, the whole thing will have been forgotten, and people will be wondering what was all the fuss about a song from the 1930s that lasts less than a minute, and has no rude words in it.
I suspect that Baroness Thatcher herself would have been highly amused by the affair. She never shirked controversy, and even seemed to thrive on it. Any wicked witch would have stood no chance against her.