A PETITION to reinstate the lyrics of Rule Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory at the BBC Proms has smashed 30,000 signatures in just two days.
Thousands of Brits called for the words to be sung once more next month, after BBC bosses stripped them from the event’s annual programme.
Organisers of the BBC Proms said the songs would be featured as orchestral versions instead, due to “offensive” lyrical connotations about the British Empire.
The decision sparked backlash online, with Laurence Fox leading calls to defund the BBC as a result.
Over 30,000 others signed a Change.org petition entitled ‘Save Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory from Last Night of the Proms exclusion’.
The petition reads: “If the BBC excludes these songs from The Last Night of the Proms, the lives of patriotic Britons of all colours and creeds will be diminished by this insensitive act of cancellation.
“We believe that patriotic songs matter and we call upon the Director General of the BBC and the head of BBC Music TV Commissioning not to betray our patriotic heritage.”
One person commented: “These two songs are probably the highlight of the proms season. The Proms will not be the same without them.”
Their view was echoed by the Prime Minister, who said today: “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.”
It came as a BBC source described the handling of the Proms line-up as “white guys in a panic,” trying to appease the Black Lives Matter movement.
Piers Morgan called the decision “absolutely pathetic,” writing on Twitter: “The BBC needs to grow a pair & stop grovelling to such insane ‘woke’ cancel culture nonsense that most Britons find utterly absurd.”
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary said the Last Night of the Proms brings “a huge amount of pleasure to millions of people” and that if singing is not possible, the BBC should put up subtitles.
Debating the issue on Good Morning Britain, freedom of speech campaigner Inaya Folarin Iman said criticism of the two songs was “absurd”, adding that they bring “a lot of people joy and happiness”.
But Kehinde Andrews, a black studies professor at Birmingham City University, said the line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” from Rule Britannia is racist propaganda dating back to the British Empire.
Organisers said they were concerned about the lyrics along with their links.
TV choirmaster Gareth Malone, told The Times that he supported removing Rule Britannialyrics in solidarity with black and Irish members of his choirs who had refused to sing it in previous years.
He said: “If people want to sing about the subjugation and enslavement of other nations, I don’t think that should be given a platform in 2020.”
His view was shared by Chi-Chi Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! Foundation, which supports ethnic minority musicians.
She told The Guardian: “The lyrics are just so offensive.”
The annual Royal Albert Hall concert, beamed around the world, traditionally ends with the flag-waving anthems.
At the weekend, it was reported that the conductor for this year’s Last Night, Dalia Stasevska of Finland, was keen to reduce the patriotic elements of the event.
It led to a backlash yesterday, with the Prime Minister and Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, getting involved.
Mr Dowden told the BBC that “confident, forward-looking nations don’t erase their history”.
And Boris Johnson said that while he understands the emotions involved, “we need to tackle the substance of problems, not the symbols”.
In a bid to defuse the row, BBC bosses 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 […].”
It added that the programme will include “new orchestral versions of Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (arr. Anne Dudley) and Rule Britannia”.