Theresa May has called on the BBC to explain why a joke made by Jo Brand about throwing battery acid was broadcast on one of its radio shows.
Brand, 61, has been accused of inciting violence after making the comment on Victoria Coren Mitchell’s Radio 4 show Heresy, referring to recent protests in which milkshakes have been thrown at right-wing politicians.
The BBC defended the comedian following the backlash, saying panellists are often “deliberately provocative” but “not intended to be taken seriously”.
Now the prime minister has stepped into the row, with her spokesman saying: “The prime minister has consistently said politicians should be able to campaign without harassment, intimidation and abuse.
“It is for the BBC to explain why it was appropriate content to broadcast.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who was covered in milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle last month, accused Brand of inciting violence, while several social media users have compared the BBC’s response with Danny Baker‘s sacking over an alleged racist tweet about royal baby Archie.
During her appearance on Heresy, in reply to a question about the state of UK politics, Brand said: “Well, yes I would say that but that’s because certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking: ‘Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?’
“That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.”
Defending the show, a BBC spokeswoman 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.”
In a tweet, Mr Farage said Brand’s comment was “incitement of violence and the police need to act”.
TV presenter Piers Morgan is among those making the comparison with Baker’s sacking, saying: “Why did the BBC instantly sack Danny Baker for an offensive royal baby tweet but won’t sack Jo Brand for saying she’d like acid to be thrown at politicians?”
Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, it had received 19 complaints about the Heresy episode in question.
At the end of show, Coren Mitchell said she hoped Brand’s remarks had not caused offence but added that the aim of the radio series was to “test the boundaries of what it’s okay to say and not say”.
The quiz host and television personality, 46, later responded to Mr Farage on Twitter, accusing him of double standards.
She wrote: “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed; we don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes.”
The trend of throwing milkshakes at right-wing politicians and activists began when viral footage showed Tommy Robinson being covered in Warrington.
Since then, several other members of the public have attempted to repeat the protest.