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Top 10 Extremely Stupid British Controversies

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
You wouldn’t want to be caught in the middle of these media storms. Welcome to WatchMojoUK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 extremely stupid British controversies. For this list, we’re looking at the most ridiculous controversies ever to plague the UK. Special thanks to our user ashjbow for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Extremely Stupid British Controversies

You wouldn’t want to be caught in the middle of these media storms.Welcome to WatchMojoUK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 extremely stupid British controversies.

For this list, we’re looking at the most ridiculous controversies ever to plague the UK.

#10: Orange Man

While some banned adverts are taken off-air for fairly obvious reasons, a string of Tango ads from the 1990s weren’t noticeably offensive. They all featured somebody drinking some Tango and then being slapped in the face by a man painted orange… which is supposed to mimic how Tango’s citrus flavours make you feel. However, Tango’ing people turned into a painful playground craze, with kids slapping each other left, right and centre – some even found themselves in hospital, and one boy ended up with a ruptured eardrum he’d been Tango’d so hard. Moral of the story; even apparently innocent ad campaigns can turn nasty.

#9: John Prescott’s Left Hook

He might not be a big name in British politics anymore, but back in 2001 he was Tony Blair’s Deputy Prime Minister. So, when John Prescott went campaigning in Wales and punched a protestor in the face it was certainly newsworthy stuff! Stepping off a coach in Rhyl, Prescott was unexpectedly egged by nearby farmer Craig Evans, who promptly got hit on the nose in retaliation. Prescott had previously been an amateur boxer, so it was second nature, really. Violence is never okay, and it’s even less okay from an elected member of government. But somehow, Prescott managed to ride out the controversy, even making jokes about it later.

#8: John Stonehouse Death Hoax

This back-bench MP made it to the front pages in 1974, when he unsuccessfully attempted to fake his own death. As you do. While away on a holiday to Florida, John Stonehouse decided to leave his clothes on a Miami beach, before fleeing to Australia. This all came about after he made some bad business decisions and tried to embezzle money… when the police caught on, he hatched this poorly-executed plan. In fact, though the story caused a media storm, the hoax only lasted for a month before Melbourne police found Stonehouse, he was extradited back to the UK, and convicted of 20 counts of fraud and theft.

#7: The “Strictly” Curse

Every year, certain celebrities and professional dancers are thrown together for twelve weeks to compete against one another for the “Strictly” glitterball. But, more and more frequently, those celebs and their dance partners have grown close (off the dancefloor as well as on it). From Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev, to Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff… The cursed couples have kept a nation talking. But, the curse reached its peak in 2018, when comedian Seann Walsh was spotted kissing dance partner Katya Jones after a night out. Since Seann had a girlfriend at the time, and Katya a husband (who’s also a dancer on the show), it was all the more scandalous.

#6: Walkers Crisps & Serial Killers

In 2017, a Twitter campaign spelled disaster for the UK’s favourite crisps brand, as Walkers asked users to send in selfies as part of a competition to win UEFA Champions League tickets. But, this being social media, the simple task took a sinister turn, as entrants couldn’t help but take advantage. Rather than send in pictures of themselves, they sent in mugshots of famous serial killers like Fred West and Harold Shipman, getting them super-imposed onto a pre-recorded clip of Gary Lineker saying, “nice selfie.” The mishap was blamed on an automated reply system making the videos, and the campaign was promptly shut down – but not before controversy kicked in.

#5: Piggate

Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s political career may forever be tarnished not by his reputation as the Remainer PM who inadvertently triggered Brexit, but as the bloke who got off with a dead pig. Allegedly. These unconfirmed claims came to light in 2015, in an uncorroborated biography from Lord Ashcroft, and true or not, Mr Cameron will likely never be able to live them down. Specifically, it was alleged that he put a “private part of his anatomy” into the dead pig’s mouth as part of a university society initiation. The whole story has of course been made all the more memorable by a certain episode of “Black Mirror” – which seemed to predict the entire fiasco.

#4: “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead”

One name inevitably floats toward the top of any list on Britain’s most hated Prime Ministers: Margaret Thatcher. But despite her controversial career, both supporters and adversaries labelled this particular anti-Thatcher campaign as pretty tasteless. The plan was to get the “Wizard of Oz” classic “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” to the top of the UK music charts – as tribute to her life, after she died in 2013. And, it worked. The novelty song reached #1 on UK iTunes and #2 on the UK Singles Chart. Due to the connotations that the song was being used to celebrate Thatcher’s death, the BBC refused to play it – sparking even more backlash about censorship and freedom of expression.

#3: Boaty McBoatface

In 2016, the British Antarctic Survey launched an online poll for the public to decide what to name their new, state-of-the art polar research vessel. And, it all went pretty pear-shaped. Radio DJ James Hand suggested they should call it “Boaty McBoatface”, and despite the fact that Hand claims he was joking, the choice swiftly soared to #1 in the poll. The controversy began when the BAS announced they would instead be naming the ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough, going against the public choice, and sparking outrage. In order to try and placate the voters, the BAS did offer to name one of the ship’s submarines Boaty McBoatface instead. Though, it should probably be Subby McSubface – if anything.

#2: The Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll

As more and more people switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, food retailers are changing to account for changing tastes. And so, in 2019, British bakery-chain Greggs launched their vegan sausage roll. And, it was enough to send one of the country’s most divisive public figures, Piers Morgan, into meltdown. Claiming that the vegan sausage roll was pandering to “snowflakes”, Morgan promptly set to task, ranting about everything that he thought was wrong with Greggs latest addition to its menu. Mostly propelled by Piers, the pastry debacle actually became a point of serious public discussion for a few days – until Morgan tried the controversial foodstuff on “Good Morning Britain”, and threw up in a bin. Nice.

#1: “Lola”

The Kinks’ 1970 single saw controversy for a number of reasons. First for its sexual subject matter, but later the BBC took issue with it for its use of the brand name “Coca-Cola.” It was banned across the BBC because of this, though the track was later re-recorded with the words “cherry cola” instead. And, it’s not the only ridiculous reason why the BBC have banned a popular song from its airwaves, either… “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was also banned for being about gay sex; the Pulp song “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” for allegedly encouraging recreational drug use; and “Space Oddity” by David Bowie? That was banned until after the Apollo 11 mission, because it suggested that being an astronaut was dangerous.

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