Thatcher 'witch' song No. 2 in British charts in death protest

LONDON (REUTERS) - A campaign by opponents of the late prime minister Margaret Thatcher to get the song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead to the top of the British pop charts to celebrate her death failed on Sunday, although it did manage to reach second place.

Mrs Thatcher, who died aged 87 last Monday, deeply divided Britons and while some have paid warm tributes to the achievements of her right-wing Conservative governments, others said her privatisation of swathes of industry had destroyed communities.

That opposition was manifested in a Facebook campaign to propel the witch song, from the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz, to No. 1 in the charts, provoking anger from politicians of all parties, right-leaning media and members of the public.

The Official Charts Company said 52,605 copies of the song had been sold, but that was about 6,000 shy of the chart-topping track Need U by British DJ Duke Dumont and singer A*M*E.

The top 40 best-selling singles are played weekly on BBC Radio, but the broadcaster said on Friday it would only pay a five-second clip of the song as part of a news item, leading to accusations it had caved into political pressure.

"I understand the concerns about this campaign. I personally believe it is distasteful and inappropriate," BBC director-general Tony Hall said in a statement. "However, I do believe it would be wrong to ban the song outright as free speech is an important principle."

Meanwhile, a rival campaign by the former premier's supporters to promote the 1979 single I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher by punk band the Notsensibles fared less well, debuting in 35th place after sales of 8,768.

Since the death of the "Iron Lady", many of the divisions which characterised her time in office from 1979 to 1990 have resurfaced.

In addition to the witch song campaign, several hundred people held a "party" to mark her death in central London, chanting, drinking champagne and waving an effigy of the leader they despised.

More protests are expected on Wednesday when a ceremonial funeral with military honours is held at St Paul's Cathedral after her coffin is taken on a procession through central London - a tribute usually reserved for senior royal family members.