BBC will play a "short clip" of Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

The worst of all possible worlds: Radio 1 announces that it will broadcast "a short clip" during "a news item explaining why the song is in the charts".

As the row over Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead continues, it looks as if the BBC has opted for the worst of all possible worlds. The corporation has just announced that the Radio 1 Chart Show will not the play the song in full when it enters the top 40 on Sunday (it is currently on track to reach number 3) but will broadcast "a short clip" during "a news item explaining why the song is in the charts". 

Here's the full statement: 

The BBC finds this campaign distasteful but does not believe the record should be banned. On Sunday, the Radio 1 Chart Show will contain a news item explaining why the song is in the charts during which a short clip will be played as it has been in some of our news programmes.

Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper adds in a blog post:

Nobody at Radio 1 wishes to cause offence but nor do I believe that we can ignore the song in the chart show, which is traditionally a formal record of the biggest selling singles of the week. That in turn means that all songs in the chart become an historic fact.

I’ve therefore decided exceptionally that we should treat the rise of the song, based as it is on a political campaign to denigrate Lady Thatcher’s memory, as a news story. So we will play a brief excerpt of it in a short news report during the show which explains to our audience why a 70-year-old song is at the top of the charts. Most of them are too young to remember Lady Thatcher and many will be baffled by the sound of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.

In attempting to please everyone, it looks as if the BBC will please no one. 

The BBC headquarters at New Broadcasting House. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Lucy Young/Evening Standard/Eyevine
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Hilary Mantel: The Tories are pursuing a poisonous ideology and a social wrecking agenda

Leavers didn't vote for a malfunctioning, degraded state, but it’s what they’ve got. Labour must stop turning in lunatic circles and state an alternative.

The voice of liberal Britain sounds like a far-off, self-referential whine. No one will care who speaks for it or what it says, unless the speakers turn their gaze from the mirror in which they have been admiring themselves for decades. The media are utterly narcissistic, entranced by their own workings. Witness the time and space devoted to the news that the ex-chancellor wants to edit a freesheet. Journalists snarl that it’s a matter of principle – as if the appointment would destroy the pure, disinterested state of public communications we enjoy at present.

When newspapers are the news, shifts in the national mood go unnoticed. Since the referendum, it seems commentators and politicians have been paralysed with shock. Which is how we come to be led, faute de mieux, by a woman who was until recently famous only for her shoes.

The liberal whimper will soon be drowned by complaint, as the results of Brexit and the results of “austerity” combine: job security gone, low pay endemic, justice beyond the average pocket, housing unaffordable, social care broken. We see the pay-off from Mrs Thatcher’s dictum “there’s no such thing as society”. There isn’t – unless you fund it. The new Tories will never confess to a social wrecking agenda, or the old Tories to their indifference to interests other than their own. But Labour could make them confess. If it can’t, at this moment, define itself, it could at least define its opponents. Call the government on every lie and every flabby evasion, on its poisonous ideology as well as its routine incompetence, and, while doing that, ask the electorate what a well-governed country would look like.

The Labour brand is not quite toxic – yet. And of course there’s more to the party than the PLP. Mhairi Black (of the Scottish National Party) is right about Westminster: you can’t do anything with it. But you can’t do much without it either, so the malaise has to be addressed at the top level. It seems petty to blame Jeremy Corbyn for lacking style, or because he doesn’t slap down the government with smart quips in the House. There is more to leadership than being polished and smart. Yet he looks sheepish, as if he would like to be somewhere else. If he won’t go, his MPs will have to distract his attention and secede from him, taking the Labour name and the office stationery, one would hope.

New parties often look like vanity projects, founded in a fit of pique; or they become pointless jokes, like Ukip. And there’s no use in a new party if it’s the usual people with their usual lack of insight. It is difficult to imagine the political landscape of next week – let alone the view after Brexit, after the break-up of the Union. But if Labour ever aspires to govern again – as opposed to muttering to itself in a corner, turning in lunatic circles – it must begin a swift and bold conversation about what its aims are and what it can reasonably offer the voters, one election from now. Not what it would like to offer, by way of a rework of human nature, or the cancellation of history. Just what it can realistically put on the table, to keep up the strength of a staggering nation.

Day by day, voters have very little contact with their elected politicians. They don’t read manifestos and if they care about party programmes they show little recognition of links between cause and effect – bitching at private affluence, groaning at public squalor, then trundling out to vote Tory, so they get more of the same. They don’t know who does what, where their money goes, or who to call to account when things feel wrong. No surprise if they blamed Brussels for everything. No limit to the coming disgruntlement, when things get worse not better. They haven’t explicitly voted for a malfunctioning, degraded state, but it’s what they’ve got, and they’ve got a government that views it with smiling satisfaction. It shouldn’t be too difficult for Labour to state an alternative. 

Hilary Mantel is the Booker Prize-winning author of “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition