Jeremy Corbyn ruffled more feathers at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday. His disinclination to sing the royal anthem has engendered a predictable outpouring of rage from much of the mainstream press.
There is the nauseating stink of public schoolboy bullying in some of these remarks. The Telegraph being as concerned about his mismatched suit and unbuttoned collar as his lack of servility. Yet for all the sniping, Corbyn is merely following his conscience. He is defending his right to freedom of expression, or in this case, non-expression. It’s a canny move. Had he succumbed to a full-throated piping in honour of the Queen, (a monarch whose reign he doesn’t believe in), what a field-day the right wing media would have had then! Those newspapers would have shouted rank hypocrisy, and rightly so. So how will Jeremy Corbyn manage the Privy Council? Will he bend and brush the Queen’s fingers with his lips as per tradition? Or will he decline there too.
Commentators have already accused him of hypocrisy for joining the Privy Council. His membership is a necessity if he is to be informed about threats to national security. Meanwhile, Corbyn has said in interviews that the abolition of the monarchy is not his fight.
Nevertheless, he has shown a degree of pugnacity, a willingness to stand up for freedom of conscience, knowing full-well that the press vultures would swoop.
Judging from the varied reactions of commentators in the Guardian newspaper, admiration mixed with dismay, Corbyn has his work cut out for him. In the long run, he must be able to withstand heavy criticism from both Left and Right. Any wavering will be interpreted as weakness, but standing in silent reverence at The Battle of Britain Memorial isn’t the mark of a weak man.
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