The sight of thousands of European Union flags at the Last Night of the Proms has prompted outrage from Brexiters and a call for the BBC to investigate.
Those waving the EU flag in the Royal Albert Hall appeared to outnumber those waving the union flag at the event, which is usually a patriotic display, following a campaign by pro-Europeans.
The spectacle of so many EU flags being waved as the hall belted out Rule, Britannia! provoked disgust from leading Eurosceptics.
Harvey Proctor, a former Conservative MP, said it was a “disgraceful” display and called for an inquiry by the BBC, which organises and broadcasts the Proms.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, he said: “BBC must investigate how so many EU flags were waved & on display at The Last Night of the Proms. Disgraceful & misguided BBC messing up a British tradition; a political gesture which would make Sir Henry Wood turn in his grave. Utterly vulgar & wrong. Rule Britannia, not Rule EU!”
Isabel Oakeshott, the journalist and rightwing commentator, also posted on X, saying: “The Last Night of the Proms appears to be a seething mass of remainers. Can’t wait for Rule Britannia.”
Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher and a contributor to the Daily Telegraph, posted: “Ironic to see some of the audience at The Last Night of the Proms waving EU flags while singing Rule Britannia. Rule Britannia represents freedom, sovereignty, and self-determination, all absent in the European Union. Thank God for Brexit.”
The spectacle was hailed as a success by a pro-European group of music lovers called Thank EU For The Music who organised the display and said they handed out thousands of EU flags outside the Albert Hall.
In a Facebook post, it said the the display sent a “powerful signal to the world that Britain wants back IN!”
In an open letter to Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, the group said the stunt was a demonstration against Brexit.
“Tens of thousands of music lovers have taken our free European flags into the Royal Albert Hall for each Last Night of the Proms in solidarity with musicians who feel (like countless others) the destructive impact of Britain’s recent isolation from Europe,” it said.
It said it was keen to emphasis the “European and internationalist values of art and culture”.
The letter added: “We appreciate that the BBC strives to avoid controversy at all costs, but would gently point out that in doing so you might on occasion have chosen reticence rather than objectivity with regards to editorial policy on Brexit matters.
“I’m sure it cannot have escaped your attention that the artistic endeavours on stage now happen despite, not because of, the limitations that Britain’s departure from the European Union have imposed on the creative industries.”
Saturday’s Last Night of the Proms was the first full event since before the pandemic. Last year’s event was cancelled following the death of the queen.