Experts' heated debate over whether Rule Britannia should be scrapped

24 August 2020, 17:24

By Fiona Jones

A political commentator and classical musician have a passionate debate over whether song Rule Britannia should be scrapped due to messages of colonialism.

Reports suggested that the BBC were having talks over whether to include the controversial songs Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory in next month's final Proms concert over sensitivities about their lyrics.

Grange Park Opera chief Wasfi Kani said she is "constantly reminded that she is not British" and experiences a lot of awful racism, so when she hears this anthem.

She said, "We must always remember it doesn't say 'Britannia rules the waves', it's an imperative, it goes 'Britannia, rule the waves'."

"It was a call to Imperialism and it was a call to colonise...Britain was very very busy in that slavery business. The idea that this is completely anodyne, it doesn't matter and everyone can sing this big song, there's no such thing as a good empire.

"People go there to colonise other people, not to bring them better dental care."

Political commentator Calvin Robinson responded: "People love it, people get a sense of celebration and unity out of it.

"The Royal Albert Hall is there, it's full to the rafters. People sing really heartily and love it. I am sorry about the horrible things that have happened to Wasfi, but I don't think taking away elements of our Britishness is going to support her and make her feel more included.

Experts' heated debate over whether Rule Britannia should be scrapped
Experts' heated debate over whether Rule Britannia should be scrapped. Picture: PA/LBC

"I think we need to look at more ways to bring each other together and celebrating in the Royal Albert Hall is one of them."

Mr Robinson said this song was not about slavery in the British Empire this was about slavery in Roman times and how it was abhorrent - Shelagh pointed out that we were however.

Ms Kani responded, "There are many alternatives to jingoistic anthems because as soon as you say Britons never shall be slaves, you're kind of implying that other people can be slaves...nobody should be a slave."

Shelagh asked how can we divest British traditions of pain without amputating them altogether.

Mr Robinson said as a brown person he feels Britain is a very diverse and tolerant nation and "there's nothing wrong with a touch of patriotism."

"We need to stop with this victimhood of everyone's against me, everyone is hurting me and think actually what can we celebrate together...to censor these songs is pandering to the woke, metropolitan elite and doesn't help anyone."

Ms Kani said she is not criticising patriotism, she asks that other songs be used to represent that instead of one steeped in Imperialism - she suggested All You Need is Love by the Beatles as one option.