On Not Singing The National Anthem

When the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, refused to sing our national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial service, there was outrage from many quarters. Is refusing to sing one’s national anthem necessarily disrespectful however? If I were French I would refuse to join in the Marseilles, due to its historic association with Jacobinism and all that goes with it (nationalism, militarism, egalitarianism, secularism, centralisation etc.) But one would be mistaken if one concluded that, therefore, I did not love my country, because I would. One’s country is akin to one’s family, true you do not choose which country you are born into, but you love it all the same (besides, there is much in French history and culture to love). It is far better that Mr Corbyn abstain from singing the anthem, rather than ignore his conscience and join in, in bad faith. However, the matter of his comportment is another matter. The service was to commemorate the fallen of the Battle of Britain (the one part of the ‘Good War’ I would consider genuinely so) yet the Labour leader could not even dress properly. Though I cannot say for certain, I suspect that Mr Corbyn follows the predictable received wisdom about the ‘War Against Fascism’ – which makes his failure to show due respect to the fallen all the more egregious.

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