We can probably all think of a few Christmas "anthems" we would like to be censored, many of them permanently. But the witty and lively "Fairytale Of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl would not be among them. That is what makes BBC Radio 1's brief attempt to edit the lyrics of the 1987 Christmas favourite (before it beat a hasty retreat yesterday) all the more irritating, particularly since Radio 2 was playing the song uncut.
Radio 1 no doubt thought it was making a responsible gesture by deciding to make the words "slut" and "faggot" in the lyric inaudible. But all the station accomplished was to toss a juicy bone to the "political-correctness-gone-mad" brigade. These reactionaries seize on such ill-judged decisions to roll back the progress made in civilising our discourse and protecting minorities. Such people need to be deprived of their ammunition.
The word "faggot" is unpleasant, but it is not prominent in the song and it has a clear artistic context. Moreover, it is hardly the worst example of homophobia to be heard on the airwaves. If Radio 1 is suddenly serious about tackling the issue of homophobia, it should come down harder on its star DJ, Chris Moyles, when he uses the term "gay" as an insult in his show. It might also take a more robust line on playing the output of certain "gangster" rappers who parade their misogyny and homophobia with twisted pride.
There is nothing wrong with political correctness in the sense of building a better mannered society but targets need to be chosen carefully. In this instance, Radio 1's aim was way off.