Britain needs to come together, and songs like Rule Britannia are the answer, not the problem, says Mark Dolan

Britain needs to come together, and songs like Rule Britannia are the answer, not the problem, says Mark Dolan

Rule Britannia: 'the glue which binds us together'

Mark Dolan

By Mark Dolan

Published: 22/01/2024

- 11:24

Updated: 22/01/2024

- 11:29

Rule Britannia: 'the glue which binds us together'

The highly talented cellist who performed at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has said Rule Britannia should be axed from the last night of the Proms.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who is a huge talent and captured the world’s attention at the age of 19 performing at Harry and Meghan's nuptials, said that “some people don't realise how uncomfortable a song like that can make a lot of people feel”.

Now there was a bit of controversy around this anthem in 2020, when the BBC had a plan to perform the song without words. Surely the words are the important bit. Following an outcry, they changed course. This is the same BBC who wanted to get rid of Land of Hope and Glory from the Proms.

Now I'm a big fan of this cellist, and he's absolutely entitled to his view. But it strikes me as a worrying trend that many people dislike, are ashamed of, or are slightly embarrassed by their own country. And let me tell you, that's not normal.

Every nation on Earth is patriotic, every nation waves the flag and every nation sings its anthems and national songs with pride. And that's the way it should be. Because a nation is a community, and a family, brought together on these occasions, by this music, by these words and by this symbolism.

The American flag adorns every school in the country. Americans sing the Star-Spangled Banner anthem and pledge allegiance to the Union more often than they eat hamburgers. America is a successful country, because of a strong sense of nationhood. And patriotism is the norm around the world.

Across, Europe, Africa, Asia, and beyond, it is what binds peoples. Patriotism is a positive force, it's one of coming together, of unity, of shared values and a shared history; shared aspirations, shared hope, and shared stories.

When people criticise songs like Rule Britannia, God Save the King, and Land of Hope and Glory, in my view they wrongly conflate the lyrics with nationalism, which is a negative destructive force, which says WE are great and the rest of the world is bad.

Many are uncomfortable with the words “rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves” as though it somehow champions imperialism and colonialism. Well, first of all, Britain wasn't the only empire, but ours is the only one that has a positive legacy – the Commonwealth, in which the former nations that we once ruled remain close diplomatic, military and economic allies.

No other so-called Empire has achieved this. Rule Britannia assumed extra significance in 1945 at the conclusion of World War II, when it was played at the ceremonial surrender of the Japanese imperial army in Singapore. And I think we can agree, that defeating the cruel and ruthless Japanese forces is something to be proud of.

Rule Britannia is mainly a celebration of our magnificent Royal Navy, which has led Britain to so much success militarily, including playing its part in the defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. I don't know about you, but I'm quite happy to sing a song, celebrating that. Some are anxious that the tune somehow glorifies slavery.

Now slavery is the greatest evil in history, perpetuated for centuries I might add. But there is no mention of it in the song, other than we shall not be slaves. And after all, it was the British, and the Royal Navy in particular, who expensively – at a huge cost of blood and treasure – dismantled the slave trade. It took 50 years but we got there.

The woke left, who have such influence on our public institutions, always seek division – chopping people up into different political identity groups, so that we can all hate each other. Which is why illiberal progressives detest patriotism so much – because it brings people of all races, colour and creeds together.

I’m an example of that. Born to Irish immigrant parents, I will take any opportunity to sing joyous songs about the United Kingdom. This country needs to come together, and songs like Rule Britannia are the answer, not the problem. Britain is now a global beacon of diversity – the most successful integrated society in the world.

But the glue that binds us is our tradition, our history and our values. And our future depends on everyone being able to sing to the same tune.

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