UK Politics

Jeremy Corbyn 'will sing national anthem in future'

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says he "stood in respect" throughout the ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Jeremy Corbyn will sing the national anthem at future official events, Labour sources have told the BBC.

It follows criticism from Labour MPs and members of his shadow cabinet that he opted to remain silent at a service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The new Labour leader, who believes in the abolition of the monarchy, insisted he had shown respect at the event.

But he appeared to shift his position when quizzed about it.

He said: "I am going to be at many events. I will take part fully in those events."

Sources later indicated to the BBC's Norman Smith that that meant he would be singing the anthem in future.

Tuesday's service at St Paul's Cathedral, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, was Mr Corbyn's first official ceremonial engagement since becoming Labour leader.

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Media captionKate Green says it would have been "appropriate, and right, and respectful of people's feelings" to have sung
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Image caption Jeremy Corbyn attended the St Paul's Cathedral service along with the prime minister and other political and military figures

During the event, he sat next to senior members of the RAF, including ACM Sir Andrew Pulford, and other politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Mr Corbyn's decision to remain silent attracted a lot of comment on social media and is on the front page of several newspapers.

Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames - grandson of Sir Winston Churchill - accused the Labour leader of being "rude" to the Queen and being "very disrespectful to the Battle of Britain pilots who gave their all".

"I think he needs to make his mind up whether he is a grown-up or not," added the Conservative MP.

'Genuine patriot'

Mr Corbyn, who may face further criticism when he faces David Cameron for the first time at Prime Minister's Questions later, has received some support from Labour figures.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Seema Malhotra says her new leader was "absolutely loyal to the interests of Britain".

And Lord Falconer, shadow justice secretary, said: "I'm absolutely sure that Jeremy Corbyn is a genuine patriot."

But Kate Green told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Jeremy absolutely stands with and respects everybody who has fought, who has lost their life, been wounded in fighting oppressions and defending our freedoms.

"For many people, the monarchy, singing the national anthem is a way of showing that respect. I think it would have been appropriate and right and respectful of people's feelings to have done so."

She added: "It will have offended and hurt people."

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Image caption Mr Corbyn paid tribute to the heroism of the RAF and others who helped win the Battle of Britain

And Labour peer Admiral Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said singing the national anthem was "a sign of loyalty to the United Kingdom and British people".

"I cannot believe that the people of our great nation could contemplate a prime minister who lacks that loyalty," he said.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said he would have advised Mr Corbyn to sing the national anthem "irrespective of his views" about the monarchy - but added the matter had been "blown out of all proportion".

He said it was a "low order" issue compared to the refugee crisis and the debate over the future of the welfare state.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who was at the service, said Mr Corbyn was "a hardcore republican to his fingertips, something that very few Labour voters would support".

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "Jeremy attended [the] event to show respect for those who fought in conflicts for Britain.

"As he said in the words issued this morning, the heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain is something to which we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude."

'Tremendous courage'

The service focused on honouring the "many" who supported the Battle of Britain pilots, described by Winston Churchill as "the few".

Ahead of the event, Mr Corbyn highlighted the fact that his mother had served as an air raid warden and his father was in the Home Guard.

He said: "Like that whole generation, they showed tremendous courage and determination to defeat fascism.

"The heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain is something to which we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude."

After the service, he said it had made him think of his mother and "the ARP [air raid precautions] medal she was given".

Downing Street said Mr Cameron - who has weekly audiences with the Queen - attached "importance" to the national anthem and was "very proud" to sing it.

The prime minister's official spokeswoman said: "The importance that the PM attaches to the national anthem is visible every time he is at one of these commemorative services. He is very proud and willing to join with others singing the national anthem."

Mr Corbyn is a long-standing republican but has said he will accept an invitation to become a member of the Privy Council - a historic body made up of current senior and former politicians, which advises the Queen on affairs of state.

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