Theresa May tells BBC to explain move to air Jo Brand joke about throwing battery acid at politicians

Posted On: 
13th June 2019

Theresa May has called on the BBC to explain why it allowed comedian Jo Brand to joke about about throwing battery acid on politicians.

Nigel Farage has called for the police to investigate the comments

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the broadcaster's decision to air the controversial gag had helped "normalise" violence against politicians.

Speaking on Radio 4's Heresy show after a string of politicians were pelted with milkshakes during the EU election campaign, Ms Brand had said: "Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?"

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She added: "That's just me. I'm not going to do it. It's purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are just pathetic, I honestly do, sorry."

A BBC spokesperson said that jokes on the show were "deliberately provocative and go against societal norms", but insisted they were "not intended to be taken seriously".

However, BBC bosses have now come under further pressure after Number 10 demanded an explanation for the broadcast.

Mrs May's official spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister has been repeatedly clear that politicians should be able to go about their work and campaign without harassment, intimidation or abuse."

Number 10 also highlighted campaigning by the husband of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, saying: "Brendan Cox has said that violence and intimidation should not be normalised and we would consistently stand against it.

"The Prime Minister shares this view. It is for the BBC to explain why it considers this to have been appropriate content for broadcast."

Meanwhile, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage - who had a milkshake thrown at him on the EU elections campaign trailed - called for the police to probe the comments, and accused BBC chiefs of hypocrisy.

In a tweet he said: "This is incitement of violence and the police need to act."

The former Ukip boss added: "I am sick to death of overpaid, left wing, so-called comedians on the BBC who think their view is morally superior. Can you imagine the reaction if I had said the same thing as Jo Brand?"

However, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed the criticism and said there should be a "very high bar in favour of freedom of speech".

He told talkRadio: "I think people ought to be able to make tasteless jokes.

"There is a borderline when it becomes incitement of violence. If somebody walkking along the street said, 'lets throw battery acid on a politician,' that would be incitement to violence. When a comedian says it in a show, it is not so clear cut.

"It is not an easy issue, I think it was a tasteless joke and if somebody were today to have battery acid thrown over them, if that were to happen to a politician, then I think Jo Brand would have something on her concscience.

"But on balance, I would not doing anything about it and would accept it was a joke that misfired."

A BBC spokesperson said: "Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously."