Friday, 18 September 2015

Storm in a tea cup?

Regular readers will know that I did not support Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership elections. I said he appealed to my heart but not my head. Since then he has won a handsome victory.  The media say his start has been chaotic.  It is difficult to see how it could have been different.

Of course he could have sung the national anthem and not given ammunition to the right wing press.  My advice would have been to have sung it, but it raises an important issue. Do we really judge that those who would wish not to sing the anthem are being unpatriotic? I cannot see the logic of that.

I am not strongly republican, but nor am I a monarchist. I live with the constitutional monarchy but with little enthusiasm for it.  Of course it works - or at least it seems to work.  It works so long as we don't question it too much.  When we do that we open a can of worms. So best keep a lid on it. The truth is that it is part of a system that maintains the privilege of a few. Now I don't expect you all to agree with that even though I said it was the truth.  Some don't mind that it maintains such privilege.

It works so long as we have leading politicians whose opinions cannot contradict it. Jeremy Corbyn is a republican - or at least that is what we are told.  He like me probably doesn't regard it as the most burning issue at this time.  Nevertheless it is an issue.  It is an issue most leading politicians don't like to address.  It isn't just a question of whether we have the monarchy.  It is a question of how we reconcile that with our democracy.

A democracy cannot be founded on the idea that we must all behave as monarchists.  It cannot be founded on the idea that all leading politicians should sing an anthem the words of which pledge allegiance to the monarch.  This would rule out any republican being a leader of a main political party. That would not be democratic.

But it gets worse.  The media have questioned whether Jeremy Corbyn will kneel to the Queen when he is made a member of the Privy Council.  It is widely accepted that the leader of the opposition should be a member of the Privy Council, although it is possible for Jeremy Corbyn to turn down an invitation to join.

It is said that the benefit of being a member of the Privy Council is that it enables the leader of the opposition to be consulted on matters of security.  It is a compelling reason.  But even more compelling would be the argument that the leader of the opposition should be so consulted regardless of whether  he or she is a Privy Councillor.  He should be so consulted because he IS leader of the opposition.

Jeremy Corbyn has now indicated that he will be singing the national anthem in future. That at least should put the matter to bed.  It is all a bit of a storm in a tea cup. But we should not ignore the fundamental questions it raises about our democracy.

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