Laurence Fox today led calls to strip the BBC of its licence fee funding over the decision to play Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia at the last Night of the Proms but not sing the words – after left-wing critics claimed they are ‘racist’.
Condemnation of the BBC’s decision came from across the political spectrum, with Tory MPs accusing the corporation of ‘erasing history’ and caving in to ‘woke morons’ and the Labour Party criticised the censorship of patriotic songs.
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.
The national broadcaster initially considered dropping the two anthems 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.
Fox told Talk Radio this morning: ‘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.
The decision was also apparently mocked by BBC presenter Simon McCoy, who tweeted: ‘There are no words..’
Nigel Farage and former Labour MP Kate Hoey and ex-MEP Richard Tice backed calls to defund the BBC over the row, while Tories slammed the BBC for disdaining British patriotism.
The BBC this morning stood by its decision and suggested it came from within the corporation, rather than others involved with the event like the conductor, Dalia Stasevska. A spokesman said: ‘Decisions about the Proms are made by the BBC.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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’.
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The BBC prompted a fresh row today after announcing that traditional favourites such as Land Of Hope And Glory will be performed without lyrics at the Proms (pictured in 2012)
The actor Laurence Fox urged people to cancel their licence fee payments (left) and urged Boris Johnson to act. The PM has weighed into the row and spoke out against the BBC’s earlier decision not to play the anthems at all
Lord Digby Jones criticised the BBC today, while BBC TV presenter Simon McCoy also appeared to mock the decision, writing ‘There are no words’
Nigel Farage suggested the BBC ‘needs cancelling’ when reacting to the ongoing Last Night of the Proms row this morning
Kate Hoey, the former MP for Vauxhall, said the Proms was ‘not worth watching’ without the lyrics to the anthems
What is the history of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory?
Rule, Britannia originates from the poem of the same name by Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson, and was set to music by English composer Thomas Arne in 1740.
It gained popularity in the UK after it was first played in London in 1745 and became symbolic of the British Empire, most closely associated with the British Navy.
The song has been used as part of a number of compositions, including Wagner’s concert overture in D Major in 1837 and Beethoven’s orchestral work, Wellington’s Victory.
The song has been an integral part of the annual Remembrance Day ceremony since 1930, when it became the first song played in the programme known as The Traditional Music.
It regained popularity at the end of WWII in 1945 after it was played at the ceremonial surrender of the Japanese imperial army in Singapore.
Rule, Britannia is usually played annually during at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms.
Left-wing critics claimed its inclusion has promoted controversy in recent years as it was deemed too patriotic.
The song ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is based on the trio theme from Elgar’s Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1, which was originally premiered in 1901.
It caught the attention of King Edward VII after it became the only piece in the history of the Proms to receive a double encore.
King Edward suggested that this trio would make a good song, and so Elgar worked it into the last section of his Coronation Ode, to be performed at King Edward’s coronation.
Laurence Fox slammed the BBC in an interview with Talk Radio this morning and said it had been the object of a ‘woke-ist takeover’.
‘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.
A BBC spokesman last night said ‘new orchestral versions’ of the hugely popular anthems would feature in the rousing finale of its concert next month.
The lyrics to Rule Britannia
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
When Britain first, at heaven’s command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And Guardian Angels sang this strain:
The nations not so blest as thee
Must, in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish great and free:
The dread and envy of them all.
Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke,
As the loud blast that tears the skies
Serves but to root thy native oak.
Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame;
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame,
But work their woe and thy renown.
To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles, thine.
The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coasts repair.
Blest isle! with matchless beauty crowned,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves
Neither 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.
Tory MPs Andrew Griffith and Alexander Stafford both urged the BBC to row back on their decision not to sing the anthems’ lyrics
Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory are part of the final night’s finale, when thousands of flagwaving ‘prommers’ traditionally pack the Royal Albert Hall
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 Laurence Fox tweeting: ‘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’.
The lyrics to Land of Hope and Glory
Land of Hope and Glory
Mother of the Free
How shall we extol thee
Who are born of thee?
Wider still, and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet!
Dear Land of Hope, thy hope is crowned
God make thee mightier yet!
On Sov’ran brows, beloved, renowned
Once more thy crown is set
Thine equal laws, by Freedom gained
Have ruled thee well and long;
By Freedom gained, by Truth maintained
Thine Empire shall be strong
Thy fame is ancient as the days
As Ocean large and wide:
A pride that dares, and heeds not praise
A stern and silent pride
Not that false joy that dreams content
With what our sires have won;
The blood a hero sire hath spent
Still nerves a hero son
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.’
Campaign group Defund The BBC this morning tweeted a video of Dame Vera Lynn singing Land of Hope and Glory
The BLM-backing Finnish conductor who ‘wants to reduce patriotic elements’ of Britain’s beloved Last Night of the Proms
Dalia Stasevska, who is conducting the Last Night
Dalia Stasevska is preparing for the biggest night of her career on September 12 when she conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the Last Night of the Proms.
But away from music, the 35-year-old, who moved from her birthplace of Ukraine to Finland when she was aged just five, is known to be a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In June, as protests took place over the death of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms Stasevska tweeted an image reading: ‘I stand for equality. I stand against racism. I stand for love and compassion.’
In June, as protests took place over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms Stasevska tweeted the above image
She uses social media to campaign about race and gender equality, and last month encouraged followers to listen to a BBC Radio 3 debate about classical music and race.
Ms Stasevska is pictured with Mr Lordi, the lead vocalist in heavy metal band Lordi
Ms Stasevska is married to the Finnish musician Lauri Porra, who is the bassist for power metal band Stratovarius and the great-grandson of composer Jean Sibelius.
Speaking to the Guardian in January 2019, she said: ‘He’s the famous one, not me. There’s no city or country where he doesn’t get recognised!’
Ms Stasevska originally trained as a violinist, before developing a love of opera aged 13 then moving into conducting in her 20s.
She told the Guardian: ‘Opera was kind of my punk. My friends were listening to the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys, but I just wanted opera.’
Dalia Stasevska is married to the Finnish musician Lauri Porra, who is the bassist for power metal band Stratovarius
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.
The BBC said: ‘The Proms will reinvent the Last Night in this extraordinary year so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time.
‘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 Last Night of the Proms traditionally leads up to a celebration of British patriotism, which has sometimes led to criticism from Left-wing critics
During the debate on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, freedom of speech campaigner Inaya Folarin Iman said criticism of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory was ‘absurd’, adding that they bring ‘a lot of people joy and happiness’
Dalia Stasevska (pictured front with her violin in Peenemuende, Germany, in September 2012) is conducting the Last Night
So what songs WILL be sung at the proms? The words to Jerusalem and You’ll Never Walk Alone
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy lamb of god
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear, oh clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone, you’ll never walk alone