Free speech includes the right to not say – or sing – something that you do not believe. Jeremy Corbyn exercised that right during the Battle of Britain memorial service earlier this week, when he stood in silence during the national anthem.
Patriotism and monarchism are not mutually exclusive. Patriotism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive either. Declining to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ does not make one a traitor or unpatriotic. Instead, it signals that you think our country would be better if it didn’t have God (an Established Church) and it didn’t have a Queen (the monarchy). These are entirely reasonable beliefs.
We live in an advanced democracy, with relatively clear rights and freedoms. Our political and media class are highly educated. To a man (and woman) they have a sophisticated understanding of what those freedoms are.
Do you suppose that any of the condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn by fellow politicians this week was sincerely held? Do you suppose that any of the media reporting of that condemnation was because editors felt there was a genuine issue at stake? Do you suppose that the MPs and columnists complaining about a lack of respect really thought that a principled aversion to our ridiculous anthem was anti-British and equal to treason?
Personally, I think they were all being disingenuous. Every last one of them. I think all the condemnations were cynical attempts to create a negative impression of Jeremy Corbyn on the electorate.
The opprobrium was particularly dispicable because politicians are usually vilified for failing to stick to their principles. But as soon as one man does stick to what he believes and behaves accordingly, he is attacked. This is wrong. If you have ever moaned about politicians oh out principles, then you should be angry at the way Mr Corbyn’s principles have been used to attack him.
The Battle of Britain, memorialised this week, was a crucial moment in a war against fascism. Yet what could be more fascist than insisting that we offer unquestioning loyalty to a hereditary monarch? What is more totalitarian than the suggestion that anyone who doesn’t join in with the singing is a traitor?
‘Freedom of conscience’ is a human right and an integral part of the Britosh democracy. Those who seek to undermine this principle are the real threats to our national security. They must be resisted.