Police sergeant quits post over offensive Thatcher messages

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A POLICE officer who posted offensive messages online following Baroness Thatcher’s death has resigned, as the BBC last night announced the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead which is heading up the charts will not be played on Radio 1.

Sergeant Jeremy Scott, who worked in a back-office role for the Metropolitan Police, is understood to have written on social networking website Twitter that he hoped Lady Thatcher’s death was “painful and degrading”.

Scotland Yard confirmed Sgt Scott had submitted his resignation and it was accepted with immediate effect.

Commander Allan Gibson added: “This officer’s behaviour was completely unacceptable and it is right that he has resigned.”

Under the Twitter handle @thinbluespeck, which has since been taken down, Sgt Scott said Lady Thatcher’s death was “87 years too late” and added that the world was a “better place”.

The BBC said Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, which has been propelled into the charts by opponents of Baroness Thatcher, would not be played in full on tomorrow’s Radio 1 chart show.

In a compromise solution, the corporation said it would instead run a five-second clip from the recording, taken from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, as part of a news item in the course of the programme.

Writing on his blog, BBC1 Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper – who took the decision to run just a clip after consulting new BBC director-general Tony Hall and the director of radio Graham Ellis – said: “On one side there is the understandable anger of large numbers of people who are appalled by this campaign.

“On the other, there is the question of whether the chart show – which has run since the birth of Radio 1 in 1967 – can ignore a high new entry which clearly reflects the views of a big enough portion of the record-buying public to propel it up the charts.

“Above all, in the middle of this furore is a grieving family.”

Mr Cooper added: “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.”

Mr Hall added: “I understand the concerns about this campaign. I personally believe it is distasteful and inappropriate. However I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle and a ban would only give it more publicity.”

Tory MP John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee who had urged the BBC not to play it, said it was a sensible solution.

“I don’t think it would have been right to have allowed the chart show to have been hijacked for political purposes and had they played the whole song that would have been the consequence. But on the other hand they couldn’t have just ignored the fact that it does feature amongst the most downloaded singles of the week,” he said.

But Shipley MP Philip Davies, who also sits on the committee, said: “It’s not for the BBC to define on what basis something is in the charts.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Whatever your views about the song, about the campaign or indeed about Margaret Thatcher, I really don’t think we should start telling broadcasters what songs they should play.”

The song was at number three yesterday, having sold about 12,000 fewer copies than the current chart-topper.

The BBC faces a further potential dilemma with a rival online campaign pushing to get the record I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher by the 1970s punk band the Notsensibles into the charts.

Prime Minister David Cameron has branded some reaction to the death of Baroness Thatcher as “pretty distasteful”.

Several “death parties” were held on the day she died but Mr Cameron said he felt the “overwhelming sense across the country...is that we are mourning the loss of someone who gave a huge amount to this country, that was an extraordinary leader”.