POLITICS
16/09/2015 03:50 BST | Updated 16/09/2015 03:59 BST

Jeremy Corbyn Has 'Offended And Hurt' People With Anthem Silence, Says Shadow Minister

Senior Labour figures have lined up to criticise their new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for not singing the national anthem during Tuesday's Battle of Britain memorial service.

The row erupted yesterday after Corbyn appeared to stay silent while the national anthem was played at the commemoration event held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Labour said Corbyn had been standing in "respectful silence" during the song.

jeremy corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn appeared to remain silent during the anthem

However Labour's new shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith told BBC Newsnight on Tuesday evening that Corbyn should have sung the anthem.

"I would have advised him to sing it, yes. I would absolutely, irrespective of his views," he said. "I am not sure he didn’t sing it because he is a republican, he may well have been thinking of something else."

"He was about to do his big speech at the TUC, perhaps he was thinking about that. Or more likely, he was thinking about the people he was commemorating."

This morning shadow equalities minister Kate Green told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Corbyn will have "offended and hurt people" by not singing.

She said that while Corbyn did respect the service, "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," she said.

Corbyn was also criticised moments later on the same programme by Lord West, the former First Sea Lord and Labour security minister under Gordon Brown.

Lord West said singing the anthem "expresses one loyalty to the UK and British people" and it was "extraordinary" that Labour's leader had not sung along.

He said: "That is what one expects from someone who hopes to, who aspires, to become prime minister."

Lord West also said he believed armed forces personnel would be "offended" by Corbyn, adding: "a large number of people in this country will be offended by it".

The Labour peer also hinted he could decide to leave the party over Corbyn's defence and foreign policy. "I have no intention to change at the moment, but I need to see, i haven't seen what policies have come out regarding defence," he said.

Photo galleryJeremy Corbyn At Battle Of Britain Commemorations See Gallery


A spokesman for the Labour leader said yesterday: “Jeremy attended today’s 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. He stood in respectful silence during the anthem.”

The commemorations marked the 75th anniversary of the battle - which took the lives of 3,242 aircrew and about 40,000 civilians.

Pictures taken of Corbyn showed the 66-year-old keeping his lips firmly sealed as God Save the Queen was played. The Labour leader looked solemn with his hands clasped in front of him.

His decision not to sing has been criticised by some, including Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames - the grandson of Winston Churchill - who said it was "very rude and very disrespectful".

In a statement released to mark the ceremony, Corbyn said: “My mum served as an air raid warden and my dad in the Home Guard.

“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.

“The loss of life - both civilian and military - should be commemorated so that we both honour their lives and do all that we can to ensure future generations are spared the horrors of war.”

Corbyn will today face David Cameron for the first time at prime minister's questions.