Boris Johnson today condemned the BBC for ‘wetness’ as both Conservative and Labour politicians united to attack the corporation over its decision to drop the singing of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at the Last Night of the Proms after critics claimed the patriotic anthems were ‘racist’.
Speaking on a visit to a Devon shipyard, the PM said he ‘could not believe’ the BBC’s decision to censor the much-loved anthems.
‘I just want to say… if it is correct, which I cannot believe that it really is, but if it is correct, that the BBC is saying that they will not sing the words of Land Of Hope And Glory or Rule Britannia! as they traditionally do at the end of The Last Night of The Proms.
‘I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness. I wanted to get that off my chest.’
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly wrote: ‘I’m black. My mum was black. I have black family. I have black friends. I have black colleagues. I have black constituents. Number of times that the Last Night of the Proms was raised with me as an issue before this BBC nonsense? Zero.’
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also weighed into the row, with a Labour spokesman saying the Proms was a ‘staple of the British summer’ and enjoying patriotic songs ‘was not a barrier to examining our past and learning lessons from it’.
BBC director-general Lord Hall – who is due to step down in September – said he backed the decision over the Proms. He told the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan: ‘They’ve come to the right conclusion.’
Asked whether there had been a discussion about dropping songs because of their association with Britain’s imperial history, Lord Hall said: ‘The whole thing has been discussed by David (Pickard, the director) and his colleagues of course it has.’
The national broadcaster initially considered dropping the patriotic songs after criticism of their supposed links to slavery and colonialism, but after a huge row bosses rowed back and announced they would be played instead, but not sung. They claim that the lack of an audience to sing along is behind the ‘creative’ decision.
The compromise was drawn up after incoming director general Tim Davie intervened to insist both pieces were performed in some form.
The former Tory council candidate is thought to want to reset the BBC’s relationship with No 10 when he takes over next week.
One BBC producer has even compared the lyrics to Nazis singing about gas chambers. Cat Lewis, who describes herself as executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘Do those Brits who believe it’s ok to sing an 18th Century song about never being enslaved, written when the UK was enslaving and killing millions of innocents, also believe it’s appropriate for neo-Nazis to shout, ‘We will never be forced into a gas chamber.’
But the condemnation of the move by the BBC was widespread.
North West Durham MP Richard Holden wrote: ‘Another stupid move from the BBC. Just let the people sing! At every turn the BBC just dig the hole they’re in a bit deeper. They need to stop with this attempt to appease the woke morons.’
Others mocked the corporation for its suggestion that singing the songs would be too risky due to the Covid pandemic, noting that the National Anthem will still be sung by a lone voice on the evening of September 12. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage and former Labour MP Kate Hoey called for the BBC to be ‘defunded’.
And one Cabinet minister proposed a national sing-a-long to Rule Britannia with subtitles provided on Last Night at the Proms.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told Times Radio: ‘I think the Last Night of the Proms brings a huge amount of pleasure to millions of people. I personally think it’s a very joyful occasion, I think it will be quite strange without a live audience there. We’ve heard the BBC’s position that they will maintain the traditions.
‘Personally I would like to see the lyrics sung and of course it is always possible to put lyrics up as subtitles on the screen so if people want to they can join in at home.’
Labour’s Lord Adonis said it was ‘laughable’ for the BBC to censor the songs, adding: ‘I haven’t got a clue what possessed them to think there was a problem with them.’
Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, condemned this year’s decision.
Mr Phillips accused BBC bosses of being ‘rooms full of white men panicking that someone is going to think they are racist’.
He said: ‘The real problem the corporation has is that it is always in a panic about race, and one of the reasons it is always in a panic is that it has no confidence.
‘The principle reason it has no confidence … is that there is no ethnic diversity at the top of its decision-making tree.’
David Mellor, the Tory former culture secretary, said: ‘This is a disgraceful cock-up at every level. What we get is a whole lot of woke claptrap and the BBC don’t know what to do about it.’
James Max, a trustee of the Royal Albert Hall, accused the BBC of ‘running scared’ from anti-British zealots, and added: ‘I do not want to see a woke agenda foisted upon the nation.’
The decision was also apparently mocked by BBC presenter Simon McCoy, who tweeted: ‘There are no words..’
Meanwhile, Laurence Fox told Talk Radio: ‘The BBC is run by the activists. It’s a naval-gazing, British-hating institution that needs to be massively defunded and have a complete root and branch reform because they are not representative of the country and extremely patronising.’
‘The BBC is run by the activists that we’re watching all of the time. It’s a naval-gazing, British-hating institution that needs to be massively defunded and have a complete root and branch reform because they are not representative of the country and extremely patronising.’
Fox also urged Britons to move Vera Lynn’s version of Land and Hope and Glory to number one, saying: ‘Wouldn’t it be great’.
The actor claimed the BBC had fallen victim to a ‘woke-ist takeover’, adding: ‘It doesn’t matter what colour or creed or religion you are, you can get behind a great song. The tune is fab, I think the words are fairly trite myself but as you say it’s a highlight and stop trying to erase our history.
‘I sincerely hope so, I think the BBC as they are at the moment – with notable exceptions – in a catastrophically London bubble of ridiculousness. This is utterly divisive.
‘There’s something wonderful about being British, whether you’re black, white or Asian. So if you don’t like being British, don’t be British. The BBC hate the nation and they hate everything about it, and I as a result feel that I hate them because I’m so proud of this country.’
Earlier he tweeted: ‘Defund this shameful, Britain hating organisation and start again. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum. #DefundTheBBC.’
Hundreds of other Twitter users also weighed in on the row today and called for licence fee payers to cancel their payments until the BBC caved in and allowed the lyrics to be sung.
Lord Digby Jones said: ‘So the BBC is considering dropping Rule Britannia & Land of Hope & Glory from the Last Night of the Proms. Is there no end to their wokeness? How about the enjoyment of the millions of Brits who pay the licence fee? You can’t choose history on your terms. It doesn’t belong to you.’
Nigel Farage and former Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey also backed the defunding calls.
Meanwhile, Alexander Stafford, MP for Rother Valley, wrote: ‘Very disappointed that the BBC are not using the words to some of our finest British songs. Are they ashamed to be British? I’m certainly not. Anyone fancy sing song instead to show that ‘Britons will never, never never be slaves.’
Andrew Griffith, the MP for Arundel and South Downs, added: ‘Interesting to see the BBC – led by Baron Hall of Birkenhead (Commander of the British Empire!) and funded by a compulsory ‘tithe’ under a Royal Charter – taking a stand against anachronisms.’
Former MEP Richard Tice said: ‘If BBC wants to cancel our patriotism & our history by not singing Rule Britannia & Land of Hope & Glory, so I want to cancel my license fee. They are in breach of their contract with the British people #DefundTheBBC.’
Sir Keir Starmer also backed defenders of the anthems, with a Labour spokesman saying: ‘The pomp and pageantry of the Last Night of the Proms is a staple of British summer.
‘The running order is a matter for the organisers and the BBC, but enjoying patriotic songs does not – and should not – present a barrier to examining our past and learning lessons from it.’
It came as a BBC insider told The Times that the BBC’s handling of the programme at times felt like ‘white guys in a panic’ trying to appease the Black Lives Matter movement because of the songs’ apparent links to colonialism and slavery.
BBC Director General Lord Hall today backed the decision to censor the anthems but tried to argue that the lack of an audience to sing along contributed to the decision.
He told World At One on BBC Radio 4: ‘The point is they’ve come to the right conclusion, which is it’s very, very hard in an Albert Hall that takes over 5,000 people to have the atmosphere of the Last Night Of The Proms…
‘It’s quite hard creatively and artistically to make that work. I think they’ve come to the right conclusion.
‘Who knows what will happen next year. I suspect it will be back. The fact is we have come to the right conclusion, which is a creative and artistic conclusion.’
The director David Pickard worked at the Glyndebourne Festival and The Royal Opera before joining the Proms.
Neither anthem will be sung even though a soprano will perform the National Anthem, Jerusalem and You’ll Never Walk Alone. There will be no live audience because of coronavirus restrictions.
A corporation source claimed Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia would not be sung because ‘we can’t do it justice without a full choir and an audience to sing along’.
The insider insisted that the singing would return next year. But the BBC’s move was condemned as a ‘complete cop-out’.
‘There’s no reason they shouldn’t have anyone singing,’ said arts commentator Norman Lebrecht. ‘None of the Government guidelines forbid it.
‘The BBC have shown no ingenuity and no imagination. There’s no reason the Albert Hall should be empty – 500 yards down the road Cadogan Hall is putting on concerts with audiences. It has been really a season of dereliction by the BBC, a failure of imagination.
‘It’s a complete cop-out. I’m afraid it’s another of those really weak BBC moments and as far as the Proms is concerned it’s an act of self-harm.’
Father Marcus Walker, the rector at Great St Bartholomew’s in London, also condemned the move.
He tweeted: ‘Hilarious that people are dressing the BBC promising ‘orchestral versions’ of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia as a retreat; it’s nothing of the sort, it’s gutting the songs of their words – of their meaning.’
Tory MP Michael Fabricant told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘I think it’s all very sad, there are some lovely words in Rule Britannia, it’s not all about Britain not being slaves. You’ve got ‘other nations not so blessed as thee must in their turn to tyrants fall while thou shalt flourish great and free’. Isn’t that lovely?
‘It was written in 1740. What was happening then? There was the War of Austrian Succession in which Britain was involved but it was also a time when the British allowed nationality to Jews and Huguenots overseas, so Britain was a great Liberal, trading nation.
‘The National Anthem will be sung and Jerusalem will be sung so it seems like they are trying to pick out just these two songs. Confident, forward-looking nations do not erase their history, they add to it.
‘And Britain’s history is not all bad, we abolished slavery in 1807, more than 50 years before America got round to it, so that is something we could be proud. I can live with that [songs being sung by one person].
‘When you hear some of these opera singers belting it out I don’t think you’d say it’s a thin voice. Let’s just have one voice singing these songs loudly, why not? It’s a tradition and it’s a beautiful tune.’
The songs are part of the final night’s finale, when thousands of flagwaving ‘prommers’ traditionally pack the Royal Albert Hall.
However, Left-wing critics claim the lyrics to Rule Britannia, including the line ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’, are offensive racist given the UK’s prominent role in the slave trade – and also the implication that some people could be slaves.
The 1902 lyrics of Land of Hope and Glory were reputedly inspired by Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist and mining magnate whose statue is being removed from an Oxford college following protests.
The row over this year’s proms schedule began on Sunday, when it was reported that Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory would both be dropped.
The conductor for this year’s Last Night, Dalia Stasevska of Finland, was among those reported to want to reduce the patriotic elements of the event.
She was said to believed that the lack of an audience was the ‘perfect moment to bring about change’.
But the news prompted a huge backlash, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden urging the BBC not to ‘erase our history’.
Meanwhile, Laurence Fox tweeted: ‘I feel so honoured to be British and part of the incredible and diverse modern nation we have become.
‘Without the past, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I wish the BBC would stop hating Britain so much. #DefundTheBBC’.
In a bid to defuse the row, BBC bosses finally announced last night that the Last Night on September 12 would still feature ‘familiar, patriotic elements’.
It said: ‘With much reduced musical forces and no live audience, the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the National Anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including You’ll Never Walk Alone, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020.
‘The programme will include a new arrangement by Errollyn Wallen of Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem alongside new orchestral versions of Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (arr. Anne Dudley) and Rule Britannia as part of the Sea Songs, as Henry Wood did in 1905.’
During a debate on ITV’s Good Morning Britain yesterday, freedom of speech campaigner Inaya Folarin Iman insisted criticism of the two songs was ‘absurd’, adding that they bring ‘a lot of people joy and happiness’.
However Kehinde Andrews, a black studies professor at Birmingham City University, claimed the line ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’ from Rule Britannia is ‘racist propaganda’ from the days of the British Empire.
His comments have been echoed by musicians Chi-chi Nwanoku, who founded the first BAME majority orchestra in Europe, and Wasfi Kani, founder of Grange Park Opera in Surrey, who are also uncomfortable with the line.
Speaking on GMB, Mr Andrews, who told how he did not watch the Proms, said: ‘I don’t think it’s about banning the songs, it’s about saying what songs are appropriate.
‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves,’ – that’s racist propaganda at a time when Britain was the leading slave trading nation in the world. The idea that we’re having this conversation now, that’s a disgrace.’
He added said: ‘The fact that the majority of people think this is OK doesn’t mean it’s OK. That’s because of a deficit in our school system that don’t teach the horrors of the British Empire. It’s not something to celebrate.
‘Land of Hope and Glory, a much more reasonable name for the song would have been Land of Racism and Servitude. I understand that’s not a catchy song, but that’s the nature of the country we’re talking about.’
But Ms Iman accused Mr Andrews of having a ‘one dimensional view of Britain’, adding: ‘He sees it as a land of racism and hate and all of these things, that’s completely and fundamentally divorced from what most people believe to Britain.
‘We recognise that it has a complex history full of horror and terror but also triumph and uplifting things. I think we need to teach history holistically and not try and teach a narrative of cultural self loathing, which I think is very divisive.
‘I don’t think this helps a single ethnic minority life. I find it very hypocritical that a lot of people don’t have a problem with music that talks about stabbing and violence and the N word this and the N word that, but a song that brings a lot of joy to the British people is somehow an issue of censorship.’
She also argued: ‘Many things are being done in the names of ethnic minorities, protecting them and stopping them being offended, when that’s simply not how they feel and I’m being spoken for when actually his song brings a lot of people joy and happiness.
‘The majority of people don’t listen to the song and go ‘oh we want to reimpose colonialism and slavery,’ songs can take on new meaning, it’s become part of a new story that represents pride.’
The row continued today, with TV personality Vanessa Feltz and arguing with Nick Ferrari arguing on This Morning.
Feltz said: ‘They’re not doing it to upset anybody. They’re not doing it to upset Nick Ferrari Rule Britannia, I’m sure people will be singing along at home. I think this was an attempt not to cause an offense, Is that a bad thing?’
Ferrari replied: ‘I simply can’t agree.
‘It was the British Royal Navy who brought an end to slavery.
‘As for the land of hope and glory, or woke and glory as the BBC would have it, there is no argument in favour of it whatsoever.
‘The BBC are out of touch with this country. The BBC has gone down a silo, quasi-campaigning. It’s there to inform and entertain and it has done for 90 years with the music. The BBC, I would argue, has lost it’s direction.’
Feltz then noted the song’s links with the British Empire, adding: ‘One of the lyrics is wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set.
‘In other words, expand your empire.
‘You take over more and more countries, that’ what the lyrics are. I love that song, I adore it. But if it’s deeply hurtful, should it be replaced with an orchestral tune?’
Several prominent left-wingers have come out against the traditional anthems in recent days.
Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! Foundation which supports upcoming BAME musicians, told The Guardian: ‘The lyrics are just so offensive, talking about the ‘haughty tyrants’ – people that we are invading on their land and calling them haughty tyrants – and Britons shall never be slaves, which implies that it’s OK for others to be slaves but not us.
‘It’s so irrelevant to today’s society. It’s been irrelevant for generations, and we seem to keep perpetuating it. If the BBC are talking about Black Lives Matter and their support for the movement, how could you possibly have Rule Britannia as the last concert – in any concert?’
Ms Kani also raised concerns with the line on slavery, telling BBC Radio 4: ‘I’m Indian, my parents came from India, I received a wonderful education in Britain, but I don’t actually feel very British when I hear things like that.
‘I don’t feel very British when I have people say to me ‘go home p***.”
The musician instead suggested the songs could be replaced with I Vow to Thee My Country or The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.
Ms Kani, whose parents sought refuge in Britain after the partition of India in 1947, also told the Sunday Times: ‘I don’t listen to Land of Hope and Glory and say ‘thank God I’m British’ – it actually makes me feel more alienated.
‘Britain raped India and that is what that song is celebrating.’
Rule Britannia, a poem by Scottish playwright James Thomson, was set to music by English composer Thomas Arne in 1740.
But the line ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’ have prompted anger from left-wingers of Britain’s own role in the slave trade.
Land of Hope and Glory was composed by Edward Elgar and Arthur Benson later added the lyrics in 1902.
The words were reputedly inspired by colonialist Cecil Rhodes, whose statue was among those targeted for removal by the Black Lives Matter protests.
The national anthem will be sung at this year’s Proms, which will air on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC One and feature soprano Golda Schultz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
A BBC spokesperson said: ‘For the avoidance of any doubt, these songs will be sung next year. We obviously share the disappointment of everyone that the Proms will have to be different but believe this is the best solution in the circumstances and look forward to their traditional return next year.’
On Dalia Stasevska they added: ‘The decisions taken are the BBC’s.
‘We very much regret the unjustified personal attacks on Dalia Stasevska, BBC Symphony Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor made on social media and elsewhere.’
The Notting Hill Carnival is a glorious celebration of the Caribbean heritage of generations of Londoners.
It’s one of the highlights of our cultural calendar, along with Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and the British Bog Snorkelling Championships.
So imagine if someone decided it was ‘hideously black’ and had to be shorn of its steel bands, dub DJs, jerk chicken stalls and colourful costumes, on the grounds that it not only excludes the majority white population but also all those more recent arrivals from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
There would rightly be an outcry.
Same goes for the Highland Games. What if Wee Burney and her Toytown Tartanistas decreed that tossing the caber and wearing a kilt fell foul of their exciting new ‘hate crime’ laws?
After all, Scots were the enthusiastic footsoldiers of the Empire and played a leading role in colonisation and the slave trade, as anyone who has seen Carry On Up The Khyber will attest.
I wouldn’t want to be the hapless Holyrood bureaucrat who had to inform a giant Archie Duncan lookalike, with a telegraph pole under his arm and six bottles of Stoori Midori liqueur on board, that his Caledonian pursuit is now a criminal offence.
Of course, none of this is going to happen. The Notting Hill Carnival and Highland Games are not on the Woke Brigade’s hit list.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the Last Night of the Proms, which is the latest harmless British Institution in the crosshairs.
The BBC has come under pressure to drop Rule, Britannia and Land Of Hope And Glory from the finale of the 2020 Promenade Concerts.
Dalia Stasevska, who has the honour of being this year’s Last Night conductor, is said to be keen to ‘modernise’ the repertoire.
Miss Stasevska, from Finland, is reported to believe that the absence of an audience is the ideal time to drag the Proms screaming and kicking into the Summer of Stupidity.
‘Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter and thinks this is the perfect moment to bring change,’ a BBC source said.
She apparently has the support of the South African soprano Golda Schultz, who has been invited to perform as a soloist on September 12.
If they don’t fancy the traditional Last Night line-up, they don’t have to take the gig.
There are plenty of other musicians who would be grateful for the work.
Surely their very selection is evidence of the inclusivity of the Proms, which has bent over backwards, forwards and sideways to showcase music from around the world.
Far from being a jingoistic celebration of Little Englander nationalism, the concerts have become the very model of modern diversity.
In recent years, the Union flag has been outnumbered on the Last Night by those ghastly blue and yellow EU numbers, handed out at the door by recalcitrant Remainers.
We’ve had to put up with ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ banners draped ostentatiously from hospitality boxes by self-obsessed show-offs, determined to signal their virtue while having no intention of inviting an asylum seeker into their own lovely homes.
Now we’re suffering a lecture about our wicked racist history from a 35-year-old from Finland, one of the whitest countries on Earth.
Typically, her objections are steeped in ignorance about Rule, Britannia ‘celebrating’ Britain’s role in the slave trade.
Someone should explain to her in words of one syllable that it was the Royal Navy that ended the slave trade on the high seas.
Depressingly, the BBC lacked the backbone to resist this madness and has relegated Rule, Britannia to a bit part in the sea shanty medley.
Land Of Hope And Glory has been shunted back from its usual starring role. And both will be orchestral versions only — no ‘offensive’ lyrics.
Those entrusted with defending our heritage have proven especially spineless in the face of the Black Lives Matter onslaught.
Revisionism is the order of the day, as the Far-Left Year Zero crowd run rampant through our institutions, tearing down statues, renaming primary schools with even the most tenuous links to slavery, and ‘decolonising’ university curriculums.
The National Trust, which exists to protect and promote our history, now prefers to airbrush the past and replace real castles with bouncy castles and ancient tapestries with fatuous touch-screen ‘experiences’ tailored to the snowflake generation.
If this Covid insanity ever passes, next year’s Promenade Concerts will almost inevitably be ‘re-purposed’ for the Age of Stupid. They could call it the Last Ever Night of the Proms!
There’ll be a ban on Union flags, and the Promenaders will be fighting for elbow room with BLM activists in stab vests and balaclavas, waving clenched fist banners, singing along to drill rap versions of old favourites.
Land of racists and fascists
Home of the BNP
How we all despise thee
It’s time to take the knee . . .