The Proms is no place for politics

Almost three months have passed since the Brexit vote and spurned Remainers continue to moan. We’ve had pro-EU rallies at Glastonbury, a few sad marches around London, and, over the weekend, the Proms became the latest post-Brexit battleground.

A crowdfunded campaign was launched to distribute EU flags for Proms attendees to wave during the performances. The campaign was supported by the Musicians’ Union, which represents more than 90 per cent of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The Guardian described the effort as a ‘show of defiance’.

After hearing about these plans, Brexiteers fought back in kind. Arron Banks, the millionaire who led the Leave.EU campaign, launched a rival initiative called ‘Save The Proms’, and paid £5,000 for Union Jacks to be distributed outside the Royal Albert Hall.

It was an odd spectacle. Trying to hijack an evening of music and entertainment with political messages – whether pro-EU or pro-Brexit – is, at best, a bit desperate. But it was the Remainers who looked the most ridiculous. After all, the Last Night of the Proms is not an act of mass jingoism, it’s a celebration of music – and musicians – from all around the world.

The ‘promenaders’ in the crowd on Saturday were waving flags from all over Europe and beyond. And the show was stolen by Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, who sang ‘Rule Britannia’ dressed as a 13th-century Inca. How waving the flag of the EU – an institution designed to keep non-EU migrants out – is an expression of cross-border solidarity is beyond me.

Nobody listening to the music that night needed a lecture on internationalism. The flag-waving Remainers should have sat down and enjoyed the show.

Charlie Peters is a writer and a campaigner for spiked’s Invoke Article 50 Now! campaign.

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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