Watch: Keir Starmer introduces rendition of national anthem at start of Labour conference
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has lambasted the party’s singing of the national anthem as “very, very odd”.
Corbyn, a republican, criticised his successor Sir Keir Starmer for introducing the anthem at the annual party conference for the first time in recent history.
Speaking ahead of the rendition of God Save the King at the opening of the gathering in Liverpool on Sunday, Corbyn suggested it was “excessively nationalist”.
In the event itself, which came after Starmer’s tribute to the Queen, many in the hall were seen singing the anthem and applause was heard once it concluded.
Concerns were expressed by some about the decision to sing the anthem, with a leaflet handed out by Labour Left Internationalists saying: “As democratic, secular, internationalist socialists, we certainly won’t be, and we suspect a lot of other delegates won’t either.”
Corbyn, in an episode of Political Thinking with Nick Robinson released on Saturday, lamented: “Very odd. Very, very odd. It’s never ever happened at the Labour conference since the conferences were first held at the time of the First World War. I find it peculiar and not really necessary.
“The conference is there, hopefully, for a democratic expression of party members’ views, to discuss policies and so on. I just find it rather odd.”
He continued: “There’s never been any demand to do it [at the conferences]. We don’t as a country routinely go around singing the national anthem at every single event we go to. We don’t sing it in schools, we don’t have the raising of the flag in schools as they do in the USA and other places.
“We are not that sort of what I would call excessively nationalist, and I don’t see the point or the need for it.”
In his tribute to the Queen on Sunday, Starmer had said it “still feels impossible to imagine a Britain without her”.
“Conference, as we enter a new era, let’s commit to honouring the late Queen’s memory. Let’s turn up our collar up and face the storm, keep alive the spirit of public service she embodied and let it drive us towards a better future."