Rule, Britannia! row risks riling rightwingers | Letters

Alan Clark says an opinion piece went too far in calling the Last Night of the Proms a supremacist indulgence, while Peter Wrigley is bemused by the strength of public opinion on the matter. Plus Marie Paterson puts the issue into Orwellian perspective

The Last Night of the Proms doesn’t appeal to me, but Joseph Harker goes way over the top in calling it a “supremacist indulgence” (The Rule, Britannia! row is too important for anti-racists to ignore, 2 September). No doubt this eccentric event shelters a proportion of Tories, Brexiters and Faragists, but I flatly refuse to believe that the average concertgoer, admittedly mostly white, is the thoughtless racist that Harker’s piece seems to imply.

The promenaders I know are music lovers first and foremost; thoroughly decent people, often on the left, often members of minority groups, who deplore racism in all its forms. But on one night a year, they sing their hearts out to some rather silly songs that many of them have known since childhood and which reflect nothing more than a slightly infantile, and probably tipsy, affection for their country – OK, the country as it was, rather than how it now is. But surely they have the right to do that now and again without being smeared as evil oppressors of their fellow citizens.

As a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, what worries me most about pieces such as Harker’s is the fuel they risk pouring on the fires of rightwing populism, creating a backlash that drives yet more people into the arms of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings. It’s those two who are the real supremacists that we progressives should worry about, not a bunch of half-pissed flag wavers in the Royal Albert Hall.
Alan Clark

• How sad that public opinion can reverse a decision on a fairly trivial matter (BBC says words to Rule, Britannia! will now be sung at Proms, 2 September), but the demotion of the Department for International Development – the record of which on helping to reduce world poverty is genuinely “world-beating” – to a subsidiary of the Foreign Office goes ahead.
Peter Wrigley
Birstall, West Yorkshire

• George Orwell, in his essay on Charles Dickens, says that when people feel a “sneaking affection for the patriotic poems … learned by heart as a child”, it is “not so much the poems themselves as the memories they call up”. This could also explain our fondness for the patriotic songs at the Last Night of the Proms.
Marie Paterson
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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