Jeremy Corbyn says Labour singing national anthem is ‘very, very odd’

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.

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (R) and Britain's main opposition Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner stand with delegates as they sing the National Anthem following a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II on the first day of the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north west England on September 25, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer sing the national anthem at the opening of the Labour conference on Sunday, following a tribute to the Queen. (AFP via Getty Images)

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.

Leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, (CR), sings the national anthem alongside John Bercow (CL), the Speaker of the House of Commons, during a national service of thanksgiving for the 90th birthday of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral in London on June 10, 2016, which is also the Duke of Edinburgh's 95th birthday. 
Britain started a weekend of events to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh along with other members of the royal family will attend a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on June 10, which is also the Duke of Edinburgh's 95th birthday. / AFP / POOL / Matt Dunham        (Photo credit should read MATT DUNHAM/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn (right, centre) during a rendition of the national anthem at a service of thanksgiving to mark the Queen's 90th birthday in 2016. (AFP via Getty Images)

“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.

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“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."