The media claimed that the annual celebration of classical music was considering dropping the “patriotic” songs Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia! because of their perceived association with colonialism and slavery.
“If that’s correct… I think it’s time we stop our squeaky embarrassment about our history, traditions and culture, and stop this general outburst of self-recrimination and dampness.” Mr Johnson told reporters.
Revealing that he had been advised against speaking out on this matter, he added, “I wanted to take this off my chest. “
The Sunday Times reported that the BBC had discussed dropping several traditional songs as Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska was “keen to modernize the evening’s repertoire and reduce the patriotic elements.”
He said the BBC was “not yet in agreement” on the final program but was aware of the “ongoing debates over racial equality” following the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
The broadcaster has since said that orchestral versions of the songs will still be played and that the event – which takes place without an audience – will include “familiar patriotic elements”.
The song Rule Britannia! includes the line: “Rule, Britannia!” Britannia rules the waves; the British will never, ever, ever be slaves. ”
But some senior politicians have expressed concerns about the reported change, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeting that he had raised his concerns to the BBC.
Speaking as part of Sky News’s Kay Burley @ Breakfast program, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said he would love to hear the lyrics sung.
“I think what’s really important, if you’re looking at this stuff, is that you should be looking to tackle the substance of the issues, rather than the symbols,” he said.
“I think this is a point that the Prime Minister made very well. “