Fanatical supporters of the EU decided to give out many thousands of its flags to people going to the last night of the Proms. They hoped to convince the rest of us, once we had seen all those flags, that we should reconsider our decision to leave the European Union.
How stupid can you get?
The last night of the Proms is a wonderfully silly event. Prommers turn up in fancy dress. They wave flags from almost every nation in the world. They sing Rule Britannia with such gusto that you could almost believe they mean every word. But it is just a glorious party celebrating the end of the finest music festival in the world. The EU remainers who fear all that patriotism is actually meant, who think the prommers would “fight for Queen and country”, rather than for the vastly superior European Commission, are hopelessly wrong. The prommers are not declaring their loyalty to anyone at all. They are just having tremendous fun. And it really doesn’t matter what flags they wave (though I suppose swastikas wouldn’t go down too well).
From the pictures I have seen (I didn’t watch it because I was at a seriously good party given to celebrate my hosts’ 120th birthday and 30th wedding anniversary) it looks as though the EU flags were a little too dark: they were not so obvious as the brighter Union Flags. But that will no doubt be corrected next year. Indeed, I suspect this will now become a venerable tradition. Some European idealist will be found, every year, to pay for thousands of EU flags to be distributed to the prommers, and they will be waved just as enthusiastically as will the Union Flags which their bearers have actually bought.
But, though it certainly doesn’t matter that lots of prommers wave free EU flags, it is a little worrying that some apparently intelligent people are telling the world that the EU is responsible for all European culture. This week we have been told that Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven owe their success to the EU. None of them, apparently, would have been permitted to visit England if Brexit had happened in their day. The fact that the EU didn’t exist in their day is thought to be irrelevant. And the distributors of free EU flags proudly boast that we have the EU to thank for all European music. Without it, we would have no good music to listen to at all.
The irritating thing is that all this nonsense is proclaimed by alleged supporters of the Proms, the largest and best music festival in the world. A music festival which has nothing to do with the EU. A music festival which is paid for by British prommers and by the BBC. And a music festival which, long before the invention of the EU, was celebrating wonderful European music day after day.
Of course I understand the real point being made by the EU fanatics. They can’t really mean (though they hope the uneducated young will believe this) that the great European composers of the past only succeeded because of a European Union which had not even been dreamt of. No, what concerns them is that EU money may no longer be available to British orchestras, choirs and composers.
I think they are wrong to have that worry. But I do understand it. They think that a democratically elected government will never support the arts because there aren’t votes in the arts. It is therefore better for us that we should be ruled by an undemocratic, but frightfully civilised, collection of eurocrats who understand the importance of the arts.
Who can tell what British governments may do about the arts in the future? I can give no guarantee that music will be supported. I hope it will be. But I don’t know. What I do know, of course, is that music will continue to flourish in Britain. The BBC will continue to produce the best music festival in the world. The great British cathedrals, both Anglican and Catholic, will continue to sponsor the finest choirs in the world. The concert halls of London and the provinces will continue to be packed, night after night. And, every year, the last night of the Proms will be filled with gloriously silly people in fancy dress waving whatever flag happens to be free that night.