Thursday, 17 September 2015

Why political leaders are in the front row - and should sing anthems, say prayers and dress smartly


So you're an atheist republican elected to lead a major UK political party. Nothing wrong with that - plenty of republicans and even more atheists out there. But there's a problem because we still live in a country where god and the monarch are revered - and constitutionally important. Not only this but the innate conservatism of most folk means that they'd quite like it to stay that way.

This problem is compounded because this is politics. We might not like the fact that such seemingly unimportant things like singing the national anthem, wearing a red poppy in early November and attending church services are given a great emphasis. But so long as this is the case - and, as we've seen, this is so - the politician has to have regard to these matters in considering his or her actions.

We can all recognise that the newly elected leader might choose to stick by his principles as an atheist republican. And we can even respect the integrity of a politician who accepts the inevitable criticism from elements of the essentially conservative majority but still sticks to those principles. But this still misses the point - the point is about why that leader is in the front row at events where anthems are sung, god is invoked and poppies are worn.

That leader is not, in those circumstances, an individual holding to principles but rather a symbol - in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, a symbol of nine million or so Labour voters. And I reckon that most of those Labour voters are neither republicans nor particularly atheistic. Indeed, they are probably pretty conservative in these matters.

So it is important that civic and political leaders remember that, when they stand at the cenotaph or at a service of remembrance, celebration or memorial they are not themselves. In laying wreathes the leaders of political parties recall the millions of Labour, Liberal and Conservative supporters who played their part in liberating Europe from tyranny. And they do this on behalf of the millions of Labour, Liberal and Conservative supporters not as David, Tim or Jeremy.

So political supporters should put on a good suit, stand straight, say the prayers and sing the anthems. Because it's not them it's those supporters doing that.



Anonymous said...

We all still remember John Redwood and the Welsh tune - maybe better to retain the dignified silence of static lips than be forever condemned as Redwood has been.

Julie Tyler said...

Fortunately, Corbyn is humble enough to listen to other people, and consider their views, and as i understand it, he has agreed to sing it in future.

A politician who listens and responds.

How refreshing is that?

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that Corbyn hasn't acted humbley at all - it's not his values that have changed but the fact he probably wants one less thing to be criticised about!