Conservative MPs take aim at the BBC over wordless ‘Rule Britannia’ at Last Night of the Proms
The BBC has come under fire from Conservative MPs and the Government as it confirmed that it will use orchestral versions of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at this year’s Last Night of the Proms.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned the corporation not to “erase history”, as Downing Street waded into the row over plans for “a poignant and inclusive” rethink of the annual event.
The corporation has promised to include “familiar, patriotic elements” in this year’s musical line-up, but promised to adapt the event “so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time”.
The BBC on Monday confirmed that the songs would not be axed from the line-up of this year’s Proms, a move that had reportedly been under consideration.
But wordless versions of both Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia will be played, with the September 12 Last Night taking place without an audience in light of coronavirus restrictions.
But it has sparked anger among some Conservative MPs for a move seen as censoring the songs amid a focus on racial injustice sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant told The Telegraph: “I’m very sad. Rule, Britannia, the finale of a wonderful opera, is an evocation of British freedoms in the face of Napoleonic tyranny.”
Former Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom asked: “Seriously? Has the Beeb totally lost touch?”
North West Durham MP Richard Holden added: “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.”
And Mr Dowden, who confirmed he had raised the issue with the BBC, said: “Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory are highlights of the Last Night of the Proms”.
Saying he shared the “concerns of many about their potential removal” from the line-up, Mr Dowden said: “Confident forward-looking nations don’t erase their history, they add to it.”
Downing Street meanwhile pointed to Boris Johnson’s previous plea for those concerned about racial injustice to "tackle the substance of issues and not the symbols".
In its statement confirming the orchestral versions would be used, the BBC pointed out that conductor Henry Wood had made a similar move in 1905.