Jeremy Corbyn: Republican, Republican’t.

First, he refused to sing the National Anthem at the Battle of Britain Service. Now, Jeremy Corbyn has declined the invitation to attend the first meeting of the Privy Council in which he would have been sworn in by the Queen. Corbyn has previously directly disclosed his anti-monarchist views, supporting bills proposed to abolish the monarchy in 1991 and 1994, but it should not matter that he is a self-professed republican. It is time we realise that the media is simply blowing recent events out of proportion.

The Privy Council dates from the court of the Normans so is ceremonially important for British political historians. But, in terms of its relevance to the present, it meets on average once a month to advise the monarch in carrying out their duties, such as functions assigned to them by the Acts of Parliament. The ceremony itself involves a rather elaborate form of lowering yourself to the monarch and an extensive oath to the Queen. It is clear to see why a figure, whose own personal beliefs are against the crown, would find the basis of these meetings objectionable.

In short, the media are jumping to conclusions and over-emphasising Corbyn’s republican sympathies. The Conservative dominated media is latching on to this news story like a dog to a bone. Within 10 minutes of the announcement that Corbyn would not be attending the ceremony, Conservative MP Alan Duncan appeared on Sky News suggesting that: “Corbyn needs to decide whether he is a serious political figure”, having mysteriously forgotten David Cameron’s farm animal faux pas.

Jeremy himself did not actually announce that he was snubbing the ceremony, he stated that he had ‘prior engagements.’ It should be noted that David Cameron took three months to be sworn in to the Council in 2008. A statement was released from Jeremy’s spokesman saying that the Labour Leader could not make Thursday evenings, some things are just more important than Her Majesty.

“Some things are just more important than Her Majesty”

Jeremy would not have been alone in his non-attendance. Usually only a half a dozen ministers attend, and the quorum – which makes the meeting official – is just three. In addition, Labour have confirmed they sent a letter to the Queen personally a week ago, informing her of Corbyn’s upcoming absence. There is also no formal requirement for a new member to attend a council presided over by the Queen, making it a wonder how this story was ever front page news in the first place.

Corbyn’s views have largely been taken out of context by both the opposition and the media. However, Jeremy has the right to his own opinions, and these opinions are a refreshing branch of politics.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has provided a strong anti-monarchy voice in Westminster for the first time. Despite a poll by Ipsos Mori in 2013 finding that only 17 percent of Britain wanted a republic, Graham Smith, the Chief Executive of Republic, has rightly argued that 17 percent is still a significant proportion of the country who deserve to be spoken for.

“Jeremy has the right to his own opinions, and these opinions are a refreshing branch of politics”

There is further food for thought. If Mr Corbyn were to win the next general election, he would have to commit to a weekly audience with the Queen. A huge step for a self-confessed Republican.

However, Corbyn’s views could see him waving his own white flag. There have been reports that Corbyn faces being banned from key government meetings unless he abandons his principles, with David Cameron also having the power to order that another member of the Labour party takes his place at meetings with the National Security Council and COBRA.

But on the opposite side of the coin, if Jeremy were to abandon his principles, this may deeply upset his staunch republican followers. He must now make a decision based on principles or pragmatic practice. But whichever he makes, we should all be wary of the media and their ability to blow events surrounding politics out of proportion.

Sophie Morris

Image: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Follow Impact Comment on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join in the debate by commenting below


Leave a Reply