Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for refusing to sing the national anthem
The mudslide of outrage which hit Jeremy Corbyn after he refused to sing the national anthem during a Battle of Britain memorial service has been quite something to behold. Corbyn was branded a "disgrace" and anti-British by the press overnight, with the BBC leading with the story this morning.
Even Corbyn's own side have turned on him over the issue. The shadow minister for women and equalities told the Today Programme this morning that Corbyn's refusal will have "offended and hurt" people's "feelings" while Labour peer Lord West said it was an "extraordinary" decision which "a large number of people in this country will be offended by".
Now it may well be that there are a handful of people out there whose feelings are genuinely hurt and offended by the sight of a middle aged man standing in a room while not singing. However, I would suggest that their feelings must be in such a highly sensitive state that they would be best advised to board up the windows and never leave the house again.
I would also advise them to consider that there are several perfectly sane and reasonable reasons for Jeremy Corbyn not to have joined in with the anthem.
The first point to consider is just how absurd the lyrics of the national anthem are.
The first verse is essentially nonsense. The repeated call for a supernatural being to somehow extend his powers of unworldly protection over our hereditary ruler would be laughed at were they sung by a group of tribesman in the rainforest. That these words are still venerated by people in one of the most scientifically advanced nations in the world is bizarre.
The absurdity continues into the second verse which is a repeated call for the aforementioned supernatural being to rise up and "scatter" the enemies of our overlord. Originally the anthem here specifically called for an attack on her "Popish" enemies but was subsequently altered to "knavish" so as not to offend the many Catholic people living both here and abroad. Other variations on the anthem also called for supernatural help in order to crush "rebellious Scots", something our current rulers may have wished to resurrect during last year's independence referendum.
Now you may agree or disagree with these calls for God to help the Queen go on a rampage against her enemies, but it seems to me perfectly reasonable for Corbyn not to join in.
How dare Corbyn refuse to sing a song calling for an imaginary man in the sky to usher supernatural protection over our hereditary overlord.
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) September 16, 2015
The second more important point to consider is that the anthem is an anathema in an era when around a fifth of the British population do not believe in the monarchy and around a third of the population do not believe in a higher supernatural power.
That these people should all be shamed into singing a celebration of two institutions they don't believe in is ridiculous. That Corbyn should be mercilessly attacked by the nation's press and even his own party for refusing to do so is shameful.
In fact, had Corbyn complied and sung the anthem he would no doubt have been labelled a hypocrite by the very same newspapers who are now labelling him a disgrace.
Personally I'm not sure whether I would have been brave enough to make the same decision had I been in Corbyn's position. The sheer scale of political outrage that will now follow is clearly in excess of any slight breach in principle that singing the anthem would have caused. The Conservatives will no doubt now use the incident to label Corbyn as dangerously anti-British and a borderline traitor
However, I totally understand and respect why he chose not to comply. In an era when frontline politicians will do anything to avoid upset or controversy, it is refreshing to see someone stick so resolutely to their principles. Rather than being condemned for refusing to join in with Britain's absurd and anachronistic national anthem, Corbyn should be roundly applauded.