'I think it's time we stop this general bout of wetness' says Boris Johnson on Rule Britannia! row at BBC proms

The PM made the comments during a visit to Appledore Shipyard in Devon. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has said "it's time to stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history" with regards to the escalating row over the playing of Rule Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory at the BBC's Last Night of the Proms.

The Prime Minister waded into the debate after reports the two songs could face the axe over their perceived association with colonialism and slavery.

The BBC has since said it will play the songs but they will be performed without lyrics.

Having initially issued a statement that said it "is a decision and a matter for the organisers of the Proms and the BBC," the PM has since been more vocal about his thoughts on the matter.

Mr Johnson said: "I think it's time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions and about our culture.

"And we stop this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness".

The PM said "they're trying to restrain me from saying this" but concluded his comments with: "I wanted to get that off my chest".

Earlier on Monday Business Secretary Alok Sharma told ITV News the anthems should be played "with the lyrics sung".

"This is an occasion that gives huge amounts of pleasure to millions of people and we want to see those traditions maintained," Mr Sharma said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has waded into the debate too, tweeting that “confident, forward-looking nations don’t erase their history”.

Labour meanwhile issued a statement saying: "The pomp and pageantry of the Last Night of the Proms is a staple of British summer.

"The running order is a matter for the organisers and the BBC, but enjoying patriotic songs does not - and should not - present a barrier to examining our past and learning lessons from it."

The audience enjoying the BBC Last Night Of The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Orchestral versions, without vocals, will be performed at the famous concert on September 12, the BBC has confirmed.

The broadcaster added that there had been “unjustified personal attacks” on social media on Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska - who will be at the helm of the Last Night this year - following the controversy.

BBC director-general Lord Hall said he backed the decision over the Proms. He told the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan: “They’ve come to the right conclusion.”

Asked whether there had been a discussion about dropping songs because of their association with Britain’s imperial history, Lord Hall said: “The whole thing has been discussed by David (Pickard, the director) and his colleagues of course it has."

The Royal Albert Hall, the iconic venue of the Proms. Credit: PA

He added: “Who knows what will happen next year. I suspect it will be back.”

In a statement the BBC said: "The Proms will reinvent the Last Night in this extraordinary year so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time.

"With much reduced musical forces and no live audience, the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the national anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including You’ll Never Walk Alone, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020."