On Wednesday morning I was met with a somewhat unforeseen and uncomfortable scenario: defending Jeremy Corbyn. Whilst this is not a position I intend to make a habit of, the onslaught that has followed his silence during a rendition of the national anthem has rendered me with no option but to plead for the defence.
Corbyn has always been very clear on his republican beliefs. This should come as no shock to the quarter of a million people that voted for him this month, or to the journalists who have dug deep into his personal and political past. Whatever side of the coin you fall - pro-monarchy, or pro-abolition, reason dictates that any other response from Corbyn would have been rank hypocrisy. Whilst the private individual, who secretly harks after the ideal of popular sovereignty, might mumble their way through the anthem, it is difficult to see how a public figure can reasonably be expected to earnestly belt out lyrics such as 'long to reign over us'.
Unfortunately, as with most monarchy related topics in the UK, reason and reasonableness seems to have taken a hike. Swathes of politicians and members of the press have not only used the event to colourfully paint Corbyn's behaviour as shameful, unpatriotic and an outright snub to those who fought in the Battle of Britain, but another excuse to engage in the childish antics of criticising his dress sense. Like many, I certainly won't be expecting to see Corbyn papped on the front row of London Fashion Show this week, but perhaps we really should leave these juvenile insults to the kids.
The personal sacrifice of men and women during the Second World War, the wars that preceded it, those that followed, and the battlegrounds that are undoubtedly to come, should never be snubbed. The men that fought during the Battle of Britain risked their lives to safeguard our country from the vile tyranny of Nazism and Hitler. To this we all owe a great debt, a debt that should be remembered with humility and respect. This week's coverage is however in great danger of perpetuating the fallacy that love for one's country is inextricably linked to love for the monarch, that appreciation for those who gave their lives in its protection requires appreciation for the Queen. This is not the case. Indeed we can and do regularly remember this sacrifice in many ways: a moment's silence on Remembrance Day, history lessons at school, volunteering with veteran charities. The national anthem does not have a patent on respect.
In the UK we enjoy the freedom, without fear of repercussion, to think and express support or opposition to the monarchy - a luxury that swathes of the worlds' population can only dream of. A Labour spokesperson has today said that Corbyn will, from now on, sing the national anthem at official events. A victory for the pro-monarchy lobby, possibly less though for freedom of expression, freedom to honour in one's own way.