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Labour MP says sorry for ‘below standard’ tweets on ‘racist’ Rule Brittania row

Neil Coyle said his ‘anger’ at the Proms row ‘must not tip into foul language‘. (PA)

3 min read

A Labour MP who accused “fat old racists” of inflaming a row over the BBC’s decision to play an orchestral version of Rule Britannia at the Last Night of the Proms has apologised.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle said a string of tweets on the conservative response to the song “fell below standards” set by himself and Labour.

Mr Coyle had initially taken to Twitter to hit out at “absolute sh*tbag racist w*nkers” who had intervened in the row.

It came amid criticism of the broadcaster from Boris Johnson and other Cabinet ministers, who argued that the BBC’s plans for “a poignant and inclusive” rethink of the annual event relying on orchestral versions of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia marked a form of censorship.

The BBC has promised to include “familiar, patriotic elements” in this year’s musical line-up, but said it will 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”.

Wordless versions of both song will be played, with the September 12 Last Night taking place without an audience in light of the Covid-19 curbs.

Wading into the row on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: “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 bout of self-recrimination and wetness."

And Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg argued: “Britons must never be enslaved by political correctness.”

But that prompted an angry reaction from Mr Coyle, who said: “I have spent years warning local people that these fat old racists won’t stop blaming the EU when their sh*t hits the fan. 

“Here they come blaming others. Absolute sh*tbag racist w*nkers.”

And, responding to a video of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage singing Rule Britannia, the Labour MP said: “If you didn’t hate it before, feel free to hate the song now. I’ve never known anyone but sh*tlickers like it tbh [to be honest].”

Tory MPs swiftly seized on the comments from Mr Coyle, with Ashfield’s Lee Anderson saying he was “disappointed” by the “outrageous and disgusting” intervention — and inviting the Labour backbencher to visit his constituency “explain his insults in person” to local Brexit voters.

The Labour MP has now issued an apology for his comments, saying in a fresh tweet that his messages “fell below standards I set myself as well as those expected of me by constituents & Keir Starmer’s Labour Party”.

Mr Coyle added: “As a patriot, I’m v[ery] angry about those damaging the UK, undermining our values whilst abusing our flag, but that must not tip into foul language. Sorry.”

Defending the Proms move on Tuesday morning, the BBC’s director general Lord Hall said the corporation had "come to the right conclusion" in the wake of coronavirus restrictions which curb normal live performances.

“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,” he told the Today programme.

"And to have things where the whole audience normally sing along, it's quite hard creatively, artistically to make that work"

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