Sneaky Ways Anti-Monarchist MPs Have Dodged Kissing Up To The Queen

Queen Elizabeth II visits the joint casualty and compassionate centre at Imjin Barracks, Gloucestershire.
Queen Elizabeth II visits the joint casualty and compassionate centre at Imjin Barracks, Gloucestershire.
Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn is due to attend the Privy Council for the first time today and many column inches have been written about how the republican will deal with the traditional kissing of the Queen's hand.

As a new leader of the Opposition, Corbyn will be inducted into the Council and is expected by convention to kneel on a footstool in front of the Monarch "who proffers her right hand, palm downwards with fingers lightly closed."

The royal reference book states: "The new Privy Counsellor or minister will extend his or her right hand, palm upwards, and, taking the Queen’s hand lightly, will kiss it with no more than a touch of the lips."

Which is all a bit much for someone who does not believe in an unelected hereditary head of state. Corbyn could take a leaf out Tony Benn's book, who revealed he used to covertly put his thumb between his lips and the Queen's hand. "I always put my thumb out and kissed my thumb," he said in his diaries.

In the past republican politicians have taken a variety of approaches to register a protest at the Monarchy. Possibly the most vexing hurdle for republican MPs is what to do when they have to swear the oath to the Queen upon taking their seats in parliament.

All MPs have to either swear an oath, or a non-religious affirmation, in order to take their seats. The oath reads: I (name of Member) swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God."

Corbyn ally Richard Burgon broke convention by calling for the end to the Monarchy before affirming an oath of allegiance to the Queen in the Commons. The newly elected MP for East Leeds added his own introduction to the passage, highlighting his republicanism.

"As someone that believes that the head of state should be elected I make this oath in order to serve my constituents," he said.

Former Labour MP Tony Banks famously crossed his fingers while reading out the words.

And veteran leftwinger Dennis Skinner once added his own twist by saying: "I solemnly swear that I will bear true and faithful allegiance to the Queen when she pays her income tax." While another time he mumbled his way through the oath.

This May, many SNP MPs chose to read the oath out in Gaelic as well as English.

But anti-Monarchist sentiment is not always deliberate. New SNP MP Hannah Bardell had to retake the oath after the "genuine" mistake of forgetting to say the word "Queen" while reading the oath.

In the past there have been calls for the oath of allegiance to the monarchy to be abandoned. In 2010 a cross party group of MPs, led by Lib Dem Norman Baker, suggested MPs should pledge to serve their constituents instead.