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Martin Ivens

'Rule, Britannia!' Is a Painful Tune for the U.K.

The BBC has been caught in a nascent British culture war over the jingoistic songs in the Last Night of the Proms. It will be damned whatever it does.

A patriotic singalong?

A patriotic singalong?

Photographer: BEN STANSALL/AFP

In the U.S. the powder keg was lit by the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In Britain, less dramatically, a culture war has erupted over a popular singalong evening of patriotic tunes. The “Last Night of the Proms” is a late summer concert in London, marking the end of a classical music festival which has run for more than 100 years.

The BBC — sponsor and broadcaster of an event that’s watched by millions at home and abroad — is in the line of fire after its flip-flopping over whether to abandon a couple of jingoistic songs played at the concert each year.