The latest controversy involving Jeremy Corbyn comes one day after David Cameron alluded to him in his conference leader speech as a terrorist-loving, Britain hater. The incident in question involves Corbyn rejecting an invite from the Queen to be sworn in by her to the Privy Council. Jeremy has cited “prior engagements” as his reason for not attending.
The big problem with this is that Corbyn has simultaneously done something that the Tories and the right of centre media can jump all over as evidence of his lack of (fill in the blank here) while not actually having been a truly bold stance. It’s very likely that the reason Corbyn has refused the engagement is down to his republicanism and his desire not to have to bow in front of the monarch. As far as I’m concerned, fine. Others won’t be so liberal about it, but if Jeremy really feels passionately about it, then so be it. But where is his “straight talking” now? When the Queen invites you to the palace to get sworn into a council that has existed since the Normans, you don’t have something better to do – you simply do not. You are refusing the Queen. And since the British public will be told that anyhow, why not use the opportunity to say what you really feel?
“I believe the Privy Council is an outmoded and outdated institution that I do not wish to validate. As a strong believer in republicanism, I also refuse to attend a ceremony in which I will have to bow before someone as if they are a superior person simply by accident of birth.”
Something along those lines from Jeremy would have made me respect him. Actually, even staunch monarchists, while acting appalled, would have been impressed – it would be hard not to be, to watch the leader of the opposition say such a thing. In the end, refusing the Queen is still refusing the Queen, so I don’t see how it would politically worse to be up front about it. Anything would have been better than, “Sorry, Ma’am – I’m washing my hair that day”.
This is the problem with Corbyn – it is his wish not to offend that will trip him up more than his radical viewpoint (although the radical viewpoint doesn’t help, obviously). If you are going to not sing the national anthem at a memorial service, have a big, bold reason for not doing so and say it out loud. Don’t do something that you know is going to be a talking point and then try and play it down – it just makes you look like a petulant child. I just don’t see the point in making big gestures like snubbing the Queen and then afterwards try and offer weak excuses for such behaviour. If you’re doing such things out of conviction – and you’re in politics because you think your vision of Britain is one that can work – then you have to defend said convictions with words as bold as the actions themselves. Either play along or explain why you are not doing so.
Phil Beesley says
Michael White touches on similar points in The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2015/oct/08/corbyn-and-the-queen-watch-out-jeremy-symbolism-does-matter)
White: “In his third-age clash with all sorts of inconvenient realities Jeremy Corbyn is encountering difficulties he has spent a lifetime avoiding.” The expression “third-age” is a handy one to remember, and one which White is qualified to understand.
Sometimes you reach the point when it makes more sense to play other people’s games than to resist. You have to play their games, understand their rules and put up a fight, even if you lose. As a third-ager, Corbyn knows many tactics so he should have played better.