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Labour defends Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘respectful silence’ during the National Anthem

15 September 2015

5:57 PM

15 September 2015

5:57 PM

Labour has issued a line on why the party’s leader didn’t sing the National Anthem at today’s Battle of Britain memorial service:

‘Jeremy attended today’s event to show respect for those who fought in conflicts for Britain.

‘As he said in the words issued this morning, the heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain is something to which we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

‘He stood in respectful silence during the anthem.’

It’s not quite clear what the difference between respectful silence and stony silence is. But what this tells us is that the new Leader of the Opposition is currently prepared to display his principles even in symbolic ways that some may consider disrespectful, given the setting. He must have known that refusing to sing would attract a great deal of attention. But he clearly felt that it was more important to stick to his republican pacifist principles – which is understandable given how many Labour members said they admired those principles during the leadership contest.

What will be interesting is whether Corbyn continues to stick to these principles as his tenure as leader wears on. He is clearly not particularly bothered about press coverage. But will his frontbench Labour colleagues try to encourage different behaviour?

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