BBC criticised for 'obscene' comedy making fun of the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten
Radio 4 sitcom Blocked triggers complaints after lampooning the death of the Queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, on the eve of the Normandy Landings anniversary
The BBC has come under criticism after broadcasting an “obscene” comedy which appears to make fun of the murder of Lord Mountbatten, the Queen of England's cousin killed by the IRA in 1979.
Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman, said Radio 4’s sitcom Blocked, which was aired on the eve of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, were “typical” of the “profanity, obscenity and sheer bad taste” of the corporation.
Listeners have also complained about the show, co-written by the comedian Frankie Boyle and starring the actor and presenter David Mitchell.
The play, broadcast at 11pm on Thursday – just hours before The Queen spoke to hundreds of D-Day veterans in Normandy – featured David Mitchell as a frustrated playwright turned theatre owner, accused of carrying out the IRA’s murder of Lord Mountbatten, in Co Sligo.
Mitchell’s character Felix claims that in fact the naval officer drowned after losing his legs in terrorist attack carried out by British special forces.
Asked if he murdered the royal, his character replies: “No, they tried to pin it on me but technically speaking he drowned; very difficult to tread water with no legs.”
The show also included thinly-veiled jokes about delivering a “suitcase filled with metronomes” onto Lord Mountbatten’s boat and later mounting his leg bones above their fireplace.
Lord Mountbatten served as naval officer and Supreme Allied Commander in southeast Asia during the Second World War and was credited by Winston Churchill as one of the strategists behind the success of the Normandy Landings. He also served as Chief of the Defence Staff. He was killed aged 79 along with his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas and two other people when the IRA planted a bomb in his fishing boat, the Shadow V, at Mullaghmore, County Sligo, in Ireland.
Lord Tebbit, whose wife was paralysed when the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the 1984 Conservative Party Conference, in an attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher, criticised the comments as typical of the BBC’s “arrogance”.
He said: “It’s par for the course from the BBC and they just simply don’t discipline their people against profanity, against obscenity or sheer bad taste. The BBC is essentially left-wing and this shows they are particularly unpleasant in many ways, in their arrogance and detestation of anyone who disagrees with them.”
During the show Mitchell’s character claims not to have killed Lord Mountbatten and instead to have assassinated “Lord Hughie Mintbutton”, who “died in very similar circumstances”.
He goes on to joke that the Queen’s cousin was in fact killed by the SAS, describing the special forces unit as “the same” as the IRA, as they are all “guys in a balaclava with a mortgage to pay”. Other jokes include a series of gags about a child who was potentially abducted from the theatre and a mistaken miscarriage.
One listener said the timing of the show’s broadcast was “simply astounding”.
David Anderson, 70, who complained to the BBC, said: “I thought it was offensive at any time, but to put it on during the commemoration of D-Day is simply astounding. It was aired when the Royal Family are all in France remembering the fact that we wouldn’t have our lives if these people hadn’t sacrificed theirs and what Mountbatten did in the war.
“I was aghast by the fact that the BBC seems not to have thought about the timing of it. They don’t seem to understand where the boundaries is.”
Mr Anderson, a retired health worker, added: “The jokes about Lord Mountbatten were grossly offensive. I shudder to think what the royal family would think if they heard it. I had turned on the radio in the hope of learning something about the commemorations from that day and a few minutes later I couldn’t imagine how much worse it was going to get.”
The BBC has since confirmed five complaints about the show have been made, with one focussed on their decision to schedule its broadcast alongside the D-Day commemorations.
A Radio 4 spokesperson said: “We schedule our wide ranging comedy programmes with audience expectations in mind, and this one-off comedy pilot about a family who runs a small theatre was broadcast in a late night slot at 11pm. The comedy had no content related to D-Day and the references to Lord Mountbatten and the fictional ‘Lord Mintbutton’ were made by the incompetent theatre manager who lacks self-awareness and good taste.”
The show is Boyle’s first foray into sitcom writing and comes after a string of controversial comments made by the Scottish comedian on BBC panel shows. The 41-year-old’s tirade against the Queen, the Duchess of Cambridge and Pope Benedict XVI last year was deemed so offensive that it was cut from the BBC’s 'Give it Up for Comic Relief’ programme.
He has also been criticised for joking about the Jimmy Saville sex scandal, the kidnapping of Shannon Matthews and the suicide of children’s TV presenter Mark Speight.