Leading article: Let it be

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The Quebecois have longer memories than most, and the inevitable intrusions of the Anglophone world are rarely welcome, even today.

But few could have imagined that Sir Paul McCartney's native language would have trumped his status as global superstar, ageing Beatle, or even Liverpudlian, in the eyes of defensive French Canadians. McCartney himself, who has seen his music conquer almost everything, seems to have been taken aback by the hostility that came his way.

The venue was a part, if not the whole, of the problem. Last night's concert was part of celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. But Battlefields Park is on the Plains of Abraham, where in 1759 General Wolfe beat General de Montcalm, having scaled the cliffs above the St Laurence to surprise the French.

That this is as sensitive a chapter in French and French-Canadian history, as it is heroic in the British version, can be taken as read. But historical purists – of whom the Quebecois have their share – must surely acknowledge that the offending battle was no part of Quebec City's foundation.

It is too late, alas, to suggest that the Beatle could have carried off an enviable diplomatic coup by performing all his songs in French. In retrospect, though, there was another solution, short of summoning the superannuated Francophone rocker Johnny Hallyday. McCartney should have offered to postpone his appearance until next year, when he could help mark the 250th anniversary of General Wolfe's victory.

Even the prickliest Quebecois would probably have settled happily for this year instead, as a tribute to what is, in any language, one of the world's most handsome cities.

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