The upper reaches of BBC management suffer from an unfortunate inability to comprehend any opinion which happens not to coincide with what they themselves think.

Almost anyone else would have known that vandalising the Last Night of the Proms would provoke a furious reaction.

It is not necessary to be, oneself, an enthusiastic singer of Rule Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory in order to realise that to many people, these performances give enormous and innocent pleasure.

The idea of an innocent pleasure is alien to the modern puritans who run the BBC. They detect guilt where others hear simply a song.

A dreadful literal-mindedness is brought to bear on the interpretation of lyrics, even of single words, whose spirit can never be caught by such pedantry.

“Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” is not a line which implies that other people ought to be enslaved. It is a joyful affirmation of the liberty which Britons are fortunate enough to possess, and are determined to defend. How absurd to need to spell this out.

But perhaps by behaving in such a ridiculous way the BBC has done the country a service. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, seized the chance to observe that “enjoying patriotic songs” is no barrier to examining our past and learning lessons from it.

Boris Johnson went one better and declared, “I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history.”

The pharisaical notion that one can show how high-minded one is by expressing one’s shame at the country’s history has taken a knock.

There are doubtless things we do now, and songs we sing, which in years to come will seem in poor taste, or worse.

The wider public knows how unfair it is to condemn one epoch for failing to meet the standards of another. Yet more and more, the modern puritans invite us to take this attitude to the past, and to savour the delights of a cost-free self-righteousness.

Anyone who refuses to share in their censoriousness can be condemned as a sinner. Here is a monstrous intolerance, disguised as a higher morality.

Employ some forbidden expression, sing some forbidden lyric, and you can be cast into outer darkness, never again to be invited to move in the polite society where BBC managers spend the few hours they can spare from leading the rest of us in the paths of virtue and of truth.

The public is fed up with such condescension. These BBC Bourbons who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing are in danger of precipitating their own downfall.