Last Saturday, this year’s season of BBC Proms came to a close with Prom 75, the ceremonial Last Night of the Proms. A packed Royal Albert Hall was treated to a programme of music ending, as is customary, with Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Thomas Arne’s Rule Britannia, Edward Elgar’s first Pomp and Circumstance March (aka Land of Hope and Glory), and Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem.
Squeaky flag-waving finger up the bum time
The event was broadcast live by the BBC, mixed in with snippets from Proms in the Park held in a number of outdoor venues across Britain. It was good, rousing stuff. But one onlooker was deeply miffed at what he saw: step forward Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, who discovered that a group called Flags at the Proms had been handing out EU flags to concert-goers, making the blue and gold dominant around the auditorium.
Mr Thirsty ranted at the Guardian’s reporter “These people are still in denial over the referendum result. They are trying to make it all about them instead of a great concert. The British people want to leave the EU no matter how many flags they fly”. He also frothed “As for this airy fairy 'music crosses all borders' nonsense, music is also an important part of national symbolism in every part of the world”.
So what sort of “national symbolism” did this year’s LNOTP show us? In a hall named after a German, we heard “Wagner, and songs by Kurt Weill, a German Jew who fled the Nazis in 1933”. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Sakari Oramo from Finland, whose duties included a piece by his fellow countryman Jean Sibeluis. There was also music from Zoltán Kodály, who was Hungarian.
The singers were led by soprano Nina Stemme, who is Swedish. And the concert was broadcast across Europe and the rest of the world. So Farage is doing no more than standing and ranting - dishonestly, as usual. And it got worse.
Mr Thirsty decided that the issuing of EU flags must be countered by an appropriately upstanding and patriotic display of something British. According to the Mail, he “pledged a fightback with UKIP donor Arron Banks set to fund a similar number of Union Jacks for the audience … He said: 'I will definitely be giving Arron a call about this’”.
Sadly, as the Guardian observed, this campaign turned out not necessarily to his advantage: “Before the concert Farage had told the Daily Express that he would be asking the former Ukip donor Arron Banks to fund the supply of a large number of union jacks to counter the EU flags, but that plan did not appear to have come to fruition”.
Farage had, not for the first time, not only run out of other peoples’ money, but shown the world that he was all wind and piss. Moreover, he has failed totally to understand that it took two to perform this particular Tango: not just the people handing out the flags - but thousands of punters who happily accepted and then waved them.
And in any case, Mr Thirsty has no room to talk about crossing borders, after his victory rally with the German far right in Rudolf Hess’ back yard last Friday. Busted.