Yes, as you’ve no doubt heard, Corbyn didn’t sing the national anthem at the memorial service of the Battle of Britain. Opinions have varied on this massively – some have supported his decision while others have blasted it as a disgrace (that last one is my favourite). Either way, however, one of Corbyn’s spokespeople has confirmed that, in future, the Labour leader will take part in vocal antics.
A question emerges: is this the “right” move (for it is certainly the left)? As usual, responses have erupted to various ends, some stating that this move represents Corbyn’s hypocrisy and betrayal to his own cause, some regarding it as a respectful move, and some simply taking it as a wise piece of pragmatism.
Boring people in military uniforms typically jump in at this point to say that the main issue around which Corbyn’s silence (and future lack thereof) revolves around is that of respect. Was Corbyn’s lack of vocals a silent middle finger extending to armed forces veterans, or the queen?
In the case of the former, probably not. Before the event, Corbyn specifically mentioned the high regard he holds for the armed forces, noting “the heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain”, and even going so far as to play the card of his parents being veterans.
The latter point, however, is a bit more iffy. Is Corbyn’s (temporary) refusal to sing a song about saving the Queen an indication of his lack of respect for said monarch? After all, Corbyn is a self-proclaimed republican – perhaps his lack of support for the monarchy through song is not just unsurprising, but expected. After all, why should someone be made to sing a song on something they don’t believe in?
Your local Telegraph reader will respond that this is how the memorial has always been conducted, and as such it is only right, proper and respectful that Corbyn does the same. This, however, is an example of what is called the “appeal to tradition”, and is a logical fallacy – in other words, file this opinion under “utter nonsense”.
Putting that aside, however, it does seem slightly unlikely that this was Corbyn’s reason for his silence. It certainly wasn’t the one he gave, stating instead that he was simply showing his respect in a different way than anyone else was. Apart from anything else, the Labour leader may be a politician, but he probably still has a few brain cells lying around – at least enough to know that shouting hatred of the Queen from the rooftops through silence is probably not going to do him any favours.
So, in all likelihood, Corbyn’s silence probably wasn’t intended to slight anyone, but was rather an honest approach to respect from him. Or possibly a publicity stunt to flaunt his republicanism a little. Who knows, and who cares? The key thing is that he probably wasn’t trying to give anyone the finger.
But, what of his decision to go back on this thinking and revert to sing-song? Here, things grow a little shakier no matter how you look at it. Suppose Corbyn intended his approach to respect as a genuine personal expression – then, he is cast in a rather unfavourable light, as someone whose will is weak enough to have their personal expression of emotion bent by something as external and superficial as the opinion of newspapers.
If, on the other hand, this was indeed Corbyn waving the flag of republicanism, then it’s easy to conclude that the leader is going back on his own beliefs and betraying his own republican following by refusing to stand by their values. 251,486 people voted for him to uphold the values he believes in. They certainly did not vote for whatever values would earn him the least heat from the media.
In either respect, it seems Corbyn’s decision to return to song, whether for private or political reasons, is indicative of a rather weak will. When you are leader of a political party – particularly one that’s as popular a punching bag for people with money as Labour – there is no room for half measures, because your integrity and strength of opinion is literally everything. I’m not the first person to observe this either: check out Hugh Muir’s two cents.
The message that emerges here seems pretty obvious to me: Corbyn, you are the leader of a national political party, Leader of the Opposition, no less. You do not have room to faff about with indecision – make like a fresher with a bottle of Jackie D, and go hard or go home, no matter what you choose to do.
Or maybe we’re all making mountains out of molehills. After all, this is all over one guy who stood in one spot and simply didn’t sing one song. “This just in: Corbyn a poor choice for X-Factor!” It’s time to move on.