Yesterday, at the Battle of Britain memorial service, Jeremy Corbyn stood in tight lipped silence through the national anthem. I haven’t bothered to look at the right-wing tabloids yet this morning, but I can pretty much guarantee every one of them will have a picture of Corbyn looking as sullen as possible (they having gone through the roll looking for the one he looked most sullen in) while those around him are open mouthed (clearly showing their love of this country, says the Daily Whichever), accompanied overhead by a headline that’s a terrible pun involving Corbyn and the war.
Now, Jeremy’s antipathy towards “God Save the Queen” is perfectly understandable in many respects. My reservations about it are more musical than ideological. Because, let’s face it, melodically and harmonically speaking, it’s bloody awful. This is incredibly apparent any time Wales plays England at rugby. When the supernaturally rousing “Land of my Fathers” reverberates across the stadium as thousands of Welsh voices join in, you will see in any pub in England, Englishmen with no connection to Wales whatsoever saying to their mates, “Sorry lads, just got something in my eye”. Then it comes: “Gwuaaad Saaav…” monotony and the chance for at least 25% of those English people watching to turn to the person next to them to ask “why the hell isn’t “Jerusalem” the English national anthem?”
So we all get it a little. Only thing is, there’s a time and a place for everything in Britain, and maintaining a “respectful silence” through the anthem at a war commemoration (particularly given the place the Second World War plays within the national imagination) is just giving your enemies a free shot.
For most of Jeremy’s parliamentary career, he’s had to shout his head off about everything just to get heard every once in a while. But now that he’s the leader the opposition, he needs to absorb the fact that every single thing he does is going to be put under a microscope. As such, he needs to pick his battles from here on in. There will be plenty – he’s trying to convince a country that was terrified of the prospect of Ed Miliband being prime minister that his much more radical ideas are not just acceptable but necessary – so picking one about singing a song in a church was extremely ill-advised. And before everyone jumps on the “he’s authentic, he needs to express his every belief in every waking moment” bandwagon, let me remind you of the fact that Jeremy is an atheist. So what was he doing in the church at all then? Surely that’s propping up the notion of having a state religion, is it not? So if that much leeway is given to his worldview just by him being there at all, how hard would it have been to open his mouth and sing the goddamn song?
In conclusion, Jeremy Corbyn should have sung “God Save the Queen” yesterday. Not for the sake of those fallen dead in a war fought seventy-five years ago, but for himself.