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Good news: BBC bans singing of hated imperial anthems from Proms

Confession: I cannot figure out for the life of me what readers will make of this. On the one hand, it’s one in the eye for west brit lackeys like me, and presumably the membership of Fine Gael, who’s favourite part of the year is when “Rule Britannia” comes on at the end of the last night of the proms. A good victory over the imperialists should always be cheered, no?

On the other hand, it’s also a victory for the censorious left, who seem to exist to remove the fun from literally everything. Step outside any prejudices you might have, for a moment, as an Irish person, and ask yourself: What’s so offensive about the lyrics to “Land of Hope and Glory”, exactly? Here’s the BBC, with their explanation:

Orchestral versions of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory will be performed at the Last Night Of The Proms, the BBC has confirmed.

It had been reported the songs could be dropped over concerns of associations with colonialism and slavery.

The pieces are usually sung but will be performed without lyrics this year, although they are expected to be back in full when the pandemic is over.

That makes no sense. What has the pandemic got to do with whether you sing the lyrics? Rule Britannia, for example, is nearly always sung by a lone artist on the big night. Here’s Welsh Tenor Bryn Terfel doing the honours back in 2008. Get your Union Jack out for this one, you’ll want to sing along:

The point is this: The pandemic is not an obvious reason not to sing the lyrics. It’s a smokescreen, as revealed by the fact that the lyrics to other patriotic English anthems (Jerusalem, for example) will, in fact, be sung.

No, this is much more about the idea that patriotism itself  is sort of dangerous and offensive. And that’s not just a British idea. Here’s our own Taoiseach yesterday, who, for all his faults, wouldn’t usually be the type to sing along with Rule Britannia. He’s a bit wary of his own national flag, though:

Surely, of all the criticisms one might make of anti-maskers and other types who attend such protests, the fact that they seem proud to be Irish and wave the flag isn’t a particularly good one? What’s the flag for, exactly, if not to demonstrate one’s love of country? In fact, “patriotic opposition” is important, because it demonstrates that while one might ferociously oppose an idea put forward by the Government or one’s fellow countrymen, more unites us than divides us.

But there’s just something about patriotism that unnerves the modern left, isn’t there? As if you can’t love your country without being sort of inherently suspicious. “Land of Hope and Glory” is just about the most patriotic song you can imagine, extolling as it does the virtues of British democracy and the importance of, ahem, spreading it around the world.

Anyway, supposedly, the songs will be back, and sung in full voice, next year once this pandemic is over. Presumably concerns about colonialism and slavery will have vanished by then. Either that, or Boris Johnson will have abolished the BBC, and become a lot more popular for it.


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