Ofcom won't pursue complaints over Miriam Margolyes saying she wanted Boris Johnson to die

Danny Thompson
Contributor
Miriam Margolyes during the filming for BBC One's The Graham Norton Show. (Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ofcom has confirmed it will be taking no further action over comments Miriam Margolyes made on live TV about wanting Boris Johnson to die from coronavirus.

Almost 500 people complained to the TV regulator after the actress made the comments on live Channel 4 show The Last Leg in early May.

But in a ruling published on Monday, Ofcom investigators concluded there was insufficient context to justify the potential offence.

Read more: Miriam Margolyes admits wanting Boris Johnson 'to die' during coronavirus battle

Asked by show presenter Adam Hills how she thought the government had handled the coronavirus pandemic, Margolyes responded: “Appallingly of course, appallingly. It’s a disgrace, it’s a scandal, it’s a public scandal.

“I mean I had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die, I wanted him to die, and then I thought that reflects badly on me and I don’t want to be the sort of person who wants people to die. 

“So then I wanted him to get better, which he did do, he did get better, but he didn’t get better as a human being and I really would prefer that.”

Her comments visibly shocked Hills and fellow stars Josh Widdecombe and Alex Brooker.

Following the backlash the comments prompted, a statement from Channel 4 said: “The programme is live and unexpected comments can happen.

Miriam Margolyes attends the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (rune hellestad/Corbis via Getty Images)

“In this instance Miriam went on to say that she wanted him to get better.”

In the report on the investigation, Ofcom said: “We considered that these comments had the potential to cause offence, because Miriam Margolyes sought to derive humour from Boris Johnson’s experience of a serious and potentially fatal health condition, which had required him to be hospitalised and treated in intensive care.

Read more: Miriam Margolyes brands UK government 'utterly deplorable'

“In our view, the level of offence was likely to have been exacerbated because Miriam Margolyes’ comments were made at a particularly sensitive time, given the seriousness of the current health crisis. 

“However, we considered that most viewers would have seen this as Miriam Margolyes expressing, in comedic terms, disagreement with Boris Johnson at a political level, which viewers would have seen as being legitimate for her to have done, in keeping with the format and tone of The Last Leg.”

The report also commented on the reaction of the show’s main stars to Margolyes’ comments, which they say showed the comments were not endorsed by the programme or its presenters.