Jeremy Corbyn has been all over the news since becoming leader of the Labour party on 12th September. He faced David Cameron for the first time at prime ministers question time and his shadow cabinet has faced massive scrutiny. One of the biggest things he has had to answer is why he didn’t sing the national anthem at a commemoration service for the battle of Britain.
For many people, the national anthem is a lot more than just a song. Having existed since 1745, it’s been around longer than the Labour party itself (which was officially founded in 1900). It represents a familiarity to people throughout our modern, ever changing lives; everyone can recite the first verse of the anthem. It is a part of British (or at least English) culture and Corbyn not singing it but rather standing silently has lead people to brand the action as disrespectful and, in some extreme cases, to question Corbyn’s loyalty to Great Britain.
Corbyn has responded to these critics by saying that he was thinking about his family during the anthem, his mother was an air raid warden and his father in the home guard in WW2. Defence of him and his actions have come his way, one from a rather unusual person, Conservative MP James Grey. Grey said that “the fact that he was there, properly dressed, wearing a tie, good on him”. Members of his shadow cabinet have also stood by him, shadow chief secretary Seema Malhotra says Corbyn is “absolutely loyal to the interests of interests of Britain”.
Some of Corbyn’s critics have cited his well known dislike of the royal family as a reason he didn’t sing the national anthem. Corbyn has said that he would like a referendum on whether Britain should become a republic, getting rid of the royal family. He has admitted that this would be very unlikely to happen and even if it were to take place, there is very little chance of the royal family being ousted from their current position. There is, of course, still a great liking for the royal family among the British public; think of how much hype and support there was at the royal wedding in 2011 or for royal births.
Members of the Conservative party have been quick to jump onto Corbyn for his actions; MP Nicolas Soamas (who is the grandson of Winston Churchill) has said that the labour leader was being “rude” to the queen and “disrespectful to the people who fought at the battle of Britain”. Downing Street has said that David Cameron has a proud attachment to the national anthem and is very proud to sing it.
A Labour spokesperson has said that Corbyn will sing the anthem at future events, but whether this is a move by the part to avoid future controversy or a genuine way of Corbyn apologising for the actions is unknown. Corbyn not singing the national anthem was maybe not what some people wanted to see from the new Labour leader and that is understandable given what it represents. However, I wouldn’t say it was offensive; it is Corbyn’s personal choice how he wants to respect the people who fought in the battle of Britain, after all. Maybe, because he is now leader of the opposition, he is not used to his movements being under such scrutiny.