What’s so left-wing about bashing Britain?

by David Ward

Two events summed up an issue at the core of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent problems. First, at the TUC conference, a hunched figure looked over his glasses to remind us of individual Trade Unionists bravery and organisation to set up a movement which represented workers rights’ in disparate small businesses. Second, a suited man stood straight and stony faced while everyone else sung the national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial ceremony.

Let’s leave aside the visual spectacle of these two clips on the news – although be in no doubt it was awful. What came across was a man who feels at home lecturing people about one set of heroes of the left in a safe space, but somehow feels a statement must be made about his views on the monarchy at a memorial service.

The question in my mind, and I’m sure many others, was what kind of message this sends to the Battle of Britain pilots and groundcrew who might also have been members of a trade union. What kind of morality feels at home distinguishing between them?

It is the kind of politics more at home in the student union bar than on the national stage. What would trade unionists like Ernie Bevin would have made of it? Or even Tony Benn who served along with his father and brother in the RAF during the second world war?

Perhaps choosing not to sing the national anthem could have been explained through a heartfelt article in the media on his views on the monarchy. Although I frankly doubt it would cut much ice with the man or woman in the street. But the reality is it goes deeper than that. We have a leader of the opposition who refers to his “friends” in the IRA and Hamas. A shadow chancellor who is positive about the contribution of “the bombs and the bullets of the IRA.” These guys are now in the Privy Council and accessing confidential material. Let that sink in.

Two of my abiding memories from childhood were the bomb the IRA planted in Warrington which killed a small child, and the Manchester bomb which destroyed a substantial part of my home city and injured 200 people. There is simply no excuse for that kind of violence against innocent people. There is no defence that Major or Blair negotiated to end the violence because they did so while maintaining a condemnation for terrorist atrocities. Using language which eulogises the cause of those who have sought to attack Britain and its people is frankly repugnant to me and many others.

We’ve always had pacifists and conscious objectors like Michael Foot or George Lansbury in the party, but people like Foot did not do so from a position which gave succour to our enemies. On the contrary, in Guilty Men he eviscerated those who advocated appeasement. I’m not sure when this current kind of thinking took hold: perhaps some time between the publication of Spycatcher and Billy Bragg’s first album.

The left does itself a great disservice if it allows right wing parties to monopolise our history and our nationhood. Not only because there’s a great deal about being British to be proud of. We have a varied and world renowned culture from Shakespeare to Led Zeppelin. Created one of the first and most stable modern democracies.  Had a hundred years or so as the world’s most powerful nation. Invented most of the most popular sports in the world… Sure there are things over the last 2,000 years which don’t match up to the standards modern world, but show me a nation that’s perfect.

There is nothing especially left wing about doing our nation down, and we should not imagine that voters will thank us for doing so. I’m Labour, but I’m proud to be British, and I want a leader who can make a fist of showing he is as well.

David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London

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33 Responses to “What’s so left-wing about bashing Britain?”

  1. Steve Barker says:

    At last Labour has a decent leader ~ rejoice.

    Leave Blair behind, and be straight forward and honest, the papers will slag of Labour even when its to the right of the Tories.

  2. David Walker says:

    There are perfectly valid reasons for supporting the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah and abolishing the monarchy. There are also good reasons to take the opposite view on all of these 4 subjects.

    What concerns me is that Corbyn seems to be blinking, rather than sticking to his guns, over a number of issues.

    If I ever see him sing ‘God save our gracious Queen…’ then I’m giving up.

  3. TC says:

    I’m sorry, but what is this article meant to be?

    Didn’t sing the national anthem. Student Union politics. IRA bad, Hamas bad. Corbyn and McDonnell very bad; Billy Bragg worse. Some pacifists not so bad. Britain good; no country is perfect.

    There’s no argument, no thread, no nothing; it’s just guff I’m afraid.

    If people want a good and well-written article that deals with the themes the author tries to raise here, they could do a lot worse than read Reg Keys (father of a solider killed in Iraq) in the Guardian today.


  4. Tafia says:

    This is possibly one of the most trite and childish articles I have ever read on here- worse even than Atul’s.

    When you start dabbling in history it doesn’t end at the far reaches of living memory. There wee more airmen fighting on the allies side that had no allegiance to either the King or the UK than there were in the RAF. There were people actually serving in the RAF and fighting and dying that had no allegiance to the King or the UK. There were many many post-war Labour politicians who fought in the war, were anti-monarchist before it, during it and after it. There is absolutely no shame in being an anti-monarchist and absolutely no shame innot singing an anthem that worships something you don’t believe in. He showed his respect by standing up.

    Now to the monarchy etc etc. So, you now know where Corbyn stands – so what iof he sings it next time – will you think he is converted? Or more likely will you continue to sneer and call him a hypocrit. (Incidentally, it’s actually bloody bad manners to sing the national anthem at an official function anyway. The ‘3 ups’ is the rule – stand up, look up and shut up).

    If you have personal beliefs, have the courage to hold them in public – to do otherwise is weak. To do otherwise in order to curry favour – such as singing for a monarch you don’t believe in just to win votes, is utterly despicable. To think that some one should – such as you do, is even lower.

    I served a full career in the Infantry and fought for this country. Saw my friends killed, watched one die as his brains leaked out over a kitchen table. I couldn’t give a toss about the royal family and I wouldn’t piss one one if they were lying in a gutter burning. I even go so far as to deliberately put stamps on my letters upside down. And I don’t sing the national anthem either and I have no intention of starting. I know plenty of WW2 veterans who couldn’t give a toss about the royals either – and will stand for the anthem but never sing it.

    Has the equal hypocacy of saying ‘God save the Queen’ if you are an atheist never crossed your mind? Probably not.

    People need to start respecting Corbyn’s position over things like this and stop continually whining like a kicked cripple because it is starting to make the Labour Party look like a party of old aunts and cry-babies.

    Seems to me there is an awful lot of bullying going on in the PLP towards Corbyn – but then again most of the PLP behave like school kids in a play goound most of the time anyway.

    As the Irish Republicans say – FTQ.

  5. Forlornehope says:

    Looking at the first three comments on here it would appear that the Corbyn support group seem determined to consign the party to history’s dustbin. The idea that the British electorate will vote for a party that holds these views is absurd. There is a crying need for a political party that puts the need for fighting poverty and reducing inequality at the centre of its message. All this sordid baggage that Corbyn, McDonnell and their followers are carrying around disqualifies Labour from fulfilling that role.

  6. John says:

    This sentence

    Two of my abiding memories from childhood were the bomb the IRA planted in Warrington which killed a small child, and the Manchester bomb which destroyed a substantial part of my home city and injured 200 people. There is simply no excuse for that kind of violence against innocent people.

    Could easily be rewritten as below and mean just as much.

    Two of my abiding memories from childhood were the Bloody Sunday killings (murders) which ended the lives of several innocent people and the persecution and subsequent cover up of the ‘Birmingham Six’ which destroyed the lives of those six people and their families. There is simply no excuse for that kind of violence against innocent people.

    The author uses his paragraph to try and whip up anti-Corbyn hysteria. I could use my version to show that the violence wasn’t all one sided. But if peace was to achieved rather than just use the violence of either side to justify further violence it is better to open a dialogue and get the two sides to speak to each other. Which is what JC & JM were doing.

  7. swatantra says:

    You don’t have to wear a poppy if you don’t want to, nor sing the National Dirge nor, Ex service men should respect that These days you don’t have to enlist in the Army of you don’t want to. And its the Aristocracy and Elite and Establishment that take us into Wars.

  8. Ivan Mills says:

    I have to say to John above to equate occasional errors of judgement made by democratic governments (followed up by enquiries and hang wringing for decades after) with wanton terrorist violence against innocent targets for DECADES is bonkers.

    Try that on any audience except a sixth form debating society and expect it to be thought nonsense at the very least and torn apart at worse. We win NO votes when we are seen to back those that like to kill people. That ENJOY killing people. Telling me that I, as a UK citizen, am also to blame due to the spurious link that my government conducts itself poorly sometimes is silly.

  9. Rallan says:

    As a potential Prime Minister refusing to sing the National Anthem at an important war commemoration Jeremy Corbyn gave the (correct) impression that he is has no respect for the Nation. His choice of friends confirms that. Jeremy Corbyn has no time for patriotism and does not value British (particularly English) culture or traditions. He’s a hardcore activist at heart. He’s not going to hide his disrespect, and his supporters (including the Unions that fund the whole Labour Party and a large proportion of the swelled Labour Party Membership) are right behind him.

    When a big tree falls in a mature forest it’s very dramatic and make a huge impact. As it falls people are impressed by the spectacle and excited by the crash. It’s only after the dust has settled that people pay attention to the rapid growth of small trees that were formerly in its shadow and consider the trees that were squashed where it came down.

    Labour’s dramatic fall to the hard left is going to squash the Greens, allow the Tories to spread into the center, make room for rapid UKIP growth and perhaps even enable a recovery for the LibDems.

    Interesting times.

  10. Madasafish says:

    John Says:
    “But if peace was to achieved rather than just use the violence of either side to justify further violence it is better to open a dialogue and get the two sides to speak to each other. Which is what JC & JM were doing.”

    Well as the Good Friday Peace Agreement cam into effect in 1999…and McDonnell’s speech praising the IRA was in 2003 – that’s just bollocks.

  11. Ryland1 says:

    lots of people on these thread – forlonehope being a choice one today – harp on about how Corbyn can never win etc…

    I bet they were saying that in June, July, August….. and September until the 12th.. don’t worry, he can never win…

    Same now is said about the future elections

    One thing they never seem to explain…. how come there were so many tens of thousands of new members before his election and over 50 000 from his election, despite all of the hostility etc

  12. MacGuffin says:

    Labour, your bonkers membership has elected a disheveled marxist clown as your leader. When will the fightback of the sane start?

  13. Bob Crossley says:

    I’m not convinced that the Republicanism is a real problem. Monarchists make the biggest noise, but it’s not a top-of-the-agenda item for most people. “What do we replace her with?” is the most common objection to abolition, and the usual argument in favour of the monarchy is its value as a tourist attraction. There’s not a lot of emotional investment in the institution any more, especially when the subject of Charles is raised. I’d say it’s quite possible for the UK to elect a PM who is a republican.

    The IRA and Hamas are a different thing entirely, and much more of a vote loser IMO. McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s explanations of their remarks of yore miss the mark. The link between “This is a great injustice” and “I am justified in planting a bomb” just isn’t there for most people, so explaining away what sounds like support for terrorism on the basis of political convenience isn’t enough.

  14. Richard says:

    The author above has, it would seem to me, an extremely simplistic view of “the man or woman in the street”.
    It may be that Corbyn hasn’t put his positions across well, but then again he hasn’t had the job a week and 3 months ago he scrapped on to the ballot so the right could give the left another kicking and and to everybody’s surprise leapt from complete obscurity to leader of the opposition. So he hasn’t had much of a chance to put across his position really has he. and the left have been out of the public eyes for so long there will be some readjustment.But the ‘man or woman in the street’ (as if they were an homogeneous lump) is actually way more sophisticated than your patronising position suggests.
    For a start, ordinary folk saw through the barrage of anti Corbyn propaganda and elected him anyway. But to my main point.
    Click the link below and watch the Dads Army clip. You will see the reaction in a cinema when God Save the Queen came on. How can that be broadcast as ‘funny’ if the patriotism that people feel is as one dimensional as you appear to think it is. Stop whining, take your fingers from your ears, open your eyes and accept the reality, Corbyn has won. He needs constructive, fraternal criticism, else all you will do is undermine the Labour Party and create a self fulfilling prophesy and Labour will lose elections.


  15. Matt London says:

    “The author uses his paragraph to try and whip up anti-Corbyn hysteria. I could use my version to show that the violence wasn’t all one sided. But if peace was to achieved rather than just use the violence of either side to justify further violence it is better to open a dialogue and get the two sides to speak to each other. Which is what JC & JM were doing”

    But by 2003 when McConnell made his mealy mouthed endorsement of IRA terrorism the Good Friday agreement had been in place for five years. The deal had been done.

    More generally if views such as some of those defending JM and JC, above, reflect the position of the new not-new-labour Labour Party then however sincere they might be they will torpedo your chances of regaining of regaining political power – except perhaps by the non-parliamentary methods some of JC’s trades union supporters are advocating!

  16. Dan Filson says:

    “David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London” but has a funny way of showing his party loyalty. Ideally the Party Leader would have no problem singing the National Anthem. But just look at the words of it! I suspect many of us like having the Queen there but think the idea of Corbyn having to kneel before her at inauguration to the Privy Council more than faintly ridiculous; just as kissing hands is now simply a metaphor and doesn’t actually happen, so too should the kneeling nonsense end along with people retiring from uHer Presence backwards. If Jeremy had sung the words, he would gave been called a humbug next time he voiced his republicanism. At least he was being utterly honest unlike the many churchgoers who don’t for a moment believe that the Queen is the anointed chosen one of God! Do we value lying more than honesty?

  17. John P Reid says:

    When will the fight back of she start, I’d guess there maybe a coup after the council elections 2018 but I’d say 2025

  18. Lizzy Salander says:

    Corbyn’s “broadchurch” empties even more – that’s the royalist portion of the electorate gone!

    Credit where credit is due, the guy is a genius at being unelectable.

  19. Mike says:

    A fair article. Corbyn’s worldview is at odds with the mainstream of the country.
    As for the national anthem as others have said, he should have sung it. Even if you analyse the words (centuries after it was written) and don`t agree with it all.
    The reason given that he does sing it, but at the occasion was lost in thought is a lie. It also means he wasn`t principled.
    Just like he has switched position on EU membership, NATO membership and tax rates.

  20. ad says:

    Dan, I might adapt your words and say that Corbyn has a funny way of showing loyalty to the country he aspires to lead. Unfortunately for some, being loyal to a country is widely seen as a fairly basic requirement for being trusted to lead it.

    Unfortunately for the Labour Party, quite a large section of it seems to be unaware of this.

  21. Mike says:

    Ryland – yes Corbyn inspired some followers to join Labour. He got 0.4% of the population to vote for him.. Hardly a representative group.

  22. TC says:


    The guy who was just elected with a thumping majority you mean.

  23. Mr Akira Origami says:

    The nationalist party in Wales is just a fringe minority.

    The antics of Corbyn are pushing British folk who live in Wales towards Ukip and the Conservatives. Labour are set to lose a shedful of votes in the Welsh Assembly elections next May.

    Basically Wales just want’s as much Barnet dosh it can get it’s hands on and really doesn’t give a shit about Corbynmania.

    Carwyn Jones always likes to boast how Wales “punches above it’s weight.” Trouble is Welsh Labour is keen to give away the loot from the Barnet dosh to the nationalists and supports a language that the vast majority are not interested in.

  24. David Walker says:

    Lizzy Salander, the unelectable Corbyn won his seat in 1983 – on the back of Labour’s ‘longest suicide note in history’. That was the first of 8 consecutive victories in Islington North.

    His first stab at becoming Labour leader didn’t go too badly either. He’s been about as unelectable as Thatcher or Blair! The definitive electoral loser of recent years has been Nigel Farage – a man widely regarded as a populist!

    It’s a funny old world.

  25. Andrew J says:

    Well written. I especially like your comment on the Warrington bomb. I missed being blown up as a teenager in Birmingham by minutes. Both Corbyn and McDonnell seek to justify their past support and apologies for the IRA by claiming that they had some pivotal role in the peace process, and by equating these bombings with the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland in the seventies and eighties. There is no comparison to be drawn, nor any claim to being ‘peacemakers’ to be made. They were not invited by both sides to engage in talks, or even to facilitate them, and what they did was to become part of Sinn Fein IRA’s propaganda campaign. Interventions on the side of one party in a conflict does not count as peacemaking, in fact it obstructs the genuine peace processes. Moreover, this is not just a past conflict, it is ongoing, because, even now, we are unsure that paramilitary links have been broken, or that the IRA has actually ceased all forms of sectarian violence. Added to this, the IRA still refuses to hand over their known murderers of the Birmingham 21 for trial, together with the evidence of their guilt. Without justice, there can be no peace. In these circumstances, the current Labour leadership does constitute a threat to the security and integrity of the UK as well as potentially endangering the lives of service people in Iraq and Syria. Never mind singing the National Anthem or kneeling before her, HM should be asking for a clear oath or affirmation of allegiance before accepting Jeremy Corbyn as leader of ‘HM’s Loyal Opposition’.

  26. Madasafish says:

    Anyone who lives in the real world – by which I mean anyone who knows the MAJORITY of other people tend to think or believe – has a simple choice if they hold an alternate viewpoint. They can either state simply they hold a different view of they can aggressively promulgate their own viewpoint.

    It’s their choice but if they choose to aggressively state their own case – on TV – they can hardly be surprised if they offend the majority.. or make themselves look fools. See David we are ruled by reptilians Icke and David the Holocaust did not happen Irving.

    Same with politicians. As 80% of UK adults supported the monarchy http://tinyurl.com/7zjr636 an aggressive anti monarchy posture is hardly likely to be popular.

    And a pro IRA stance will find few friends.

    Anyone who complains about Corbyn’s stance on these issues should blame HIM – he raised them, he supported them, he’s the once at variance with majority opinion.

    And if you dislike that, tough. It’s the real world. And life is not fair.. and those who complain about it should realise most voters look at what people do and say and make judgements accordingly.

    And apologists for Corbyn are wasting their breath.,.. there are lots more skeletons in the cupboard..

    Corbyn has made his bed and now has to lie on it.

  27. Alan says:

    “There are perfectly valid reasons for supporting the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah and abolishing the monarchy. There are also good reasons to take the opposite view on all of these 4 subjects.

    What concerns me is that Corbyn seems to be blinking, rather than sticking to his guns, over a number of issues.”

    Exactly. Corbyn had two reasonable options:-

    1) Recognise the duties of being Leader of the Opposition and go with the flow – sing the National Anthem, make clear you will wear a red poppy etc.

    2) Say – “I am a Republican Aethist and will not sing the National anthem” and stick to it. This would cause outrage in some areas but at least he would be seen as sticking to his convitions, not spinning etc. There is some upside to this at least.

    The absolute worst thing to do is to take all the heat and bad press for not singing the National Anthem then cave – you get all the bad press, make a lasting impression on people and are seen as weak and easily bowed without getting much benefit.

  28. Tafia says:

    Origami. The nationalist party in Wales is just a fringe minority. This would of course be the fringe party that has three MPs, came within 1800 votes of getting 4 more and saw it’s vote increase by 17% over GE2010. The same party that will be in Coalition with Labour in the Assembly come next May.

    Not to mention that despite your protestations to the contrary, the fact remains that the more welsh an area is, the lower the UKIP vote is (http://tinypic.com/m/iwjam0/3)

    Remember, by 2020 we will have had the EU referendum and UKIP’s raison d’tre will have disappeared on the spot. And there won’t be another referendum for at least a generatioon – because that’s the cosh that’s being used on Scotland.

    You’re a very stupid man. You fail to grasp how long a long war is – and that’s why you will lose. You try to be clever by distirting statistics, but you aren’t even very bright at that which is why ,nearly everyone ignores you and I take the piss.

    As for terrorists and the killing of British forces, police officers and civilians – always remeber what Haganah was, who fought for it, who they murdered and the fact that Israel is a syate founded on a terrorist war and sedition against the Crown. If you want to have an opinion about terrorist groups that kill British subjects, then at least have the brains to be consistent if you want to be taken seriously. And Andrew J – Corbyn played quite a significant role in the peace process. It was he that Mowlam dispatched to the Maze prison to conduct the negotiations with the IRA prisoners – and that is historical fact.

  29. NC says:

    i dont understand the purpose of this article, or what the editorial of this website is trying to achieve. of course it touches on important questions, but wraps it up in a trite and contrived and very partial propagandist piece. Who are you trying to convince ? Corbin and McDonnell need to have their records held unto scrutiny as any serious political figure should and its a legitimate question whether a republican leader can lead a mainstream party. But that is not the tone of this article. Jeremy Corbyn is a republican, as are a substantive minority of Labour voters and a reasonable majority of Labour members, you may argue it is politically unwise to not sing the national anthem, but to equate what is a sincere and legitimae view (not mine i am a monarchist) with being disrespectful to veterans, when any basic knowledge of Jeremy Corbyn tells you it is not the case…is simply disingenuous and feeding Tory propaganda. The same with Corby’s comments on Hamas and IRA, he needs ti be held to account on this…but can you honestly name me a substantive Labour politician who has not at some point dined or met or engaged, shook hands or offered support to and had dinner with some despot or would be despot ? This is part of the nature of politics…os if you wish to play this game with Corbyn, you have to do this with all….again i do agree his answers on this are insufficient. This site supports a different view of Labour and a different view of whats needed….right now what it is doing is simply alienating itself and serving Tory propaganda…so unless this is objective to make Corbyn die and early death by whatever means possible….you need to make your points by addressing serious questions substatively, to make a better show of why you disagree with him on policy and convince the labour members, who will ultimately be the ones who decide his fate, why this is genuinely a Labour approach….something for all her merits Liz Kendall blatantly failed to do. I am one of those Labour’ moderates’…you know those people you need to win over. I didn’t vote for Jeremy, but when i come to sites like this, which i used to enjoy, looking for an informed alternative….this trite, disingenuous editorial is just pushing me further and further away….i know Jeremy a little, he is no Prime Minister, he is no leader…i don’t think he is the right choice…but he is a decent man, a great activist, he speaks for many who would never otherwise get a voice in parliament…and it is very important that we have people in the Labour party who will play that role..he is knowledgable and cares deeply on many issues, which is he worked closely on for many years…he is not some student union Marxist….and if you choose to attack him on these grounds, then i for one will defend him all day long

  30. Mr Akira Origami says:


    3 % for independence – sounds like a minority to me. Independence being it’s core policy.


    Ukip’s core policy is to leave the EU. It’s other policies…..


    ….and Lefty Labour’s core policy is the overthrow of capitalism!

  31. Tafia says:

    Like I said, you misuse figures to try and be clever and make yourself look an outstanding cock in the process.

    There were 7 options for people to choose from in that poll. You deliberately omit to point out that 3% opted for full independence, 49% opted for increased devolution up to and including Home Rule.

    You also fail to say that at roughly the same time, a further poll giving just Indpendence yes or no, had over 30 opting for indpendence. Consider that a year before Scotlands independece vote, Yes was only on 12% – so Wales is starting pn a base line three times higher. Like I said, you have no concept of what a long war means.

    UKIP are a busted flush in Wales now. They are polling 50% lower than they were in the run up to the general election.

    ….and Lefty Labour’s core policy is the overthrow of capitalism! And in that statement you show how little you understand of economics. Capitalism has never existed in the west – the nearest would be the Victorian era. The modern e3conomic system died 10 years ago and isn’t coming back and nothing has yet replaced it. We now live in an era of state corporatism holding things together until something else bimbles along. But Capitalism is gone – it failed. Always remeber, iif Capitalsim works then things get cheaper and cheaper (even houses), wages rise and rise. jobs get easier and easier, and interest paid or received is at zero.

  32. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Increased devolution….

    In the 1990s the public sector share in Wales was just under 50% of GDP.

    Today the public sector is 65% of GDP and the private sector has shrunk to 35%.

    Increased devolution = increased public sector.

    By the time Wales get’s home rule the public sector share will be 100%.

    “Busted flush in Wales”…..let’s see how many seats Ukip pick up in next years Assembly elections.

  33. Tafia says:

    Again Origami you play with figures in order to try and impress people while at the same time treating them as fools when they aren’t – you are.

    Large chunks of the public sector workers in Wales work in places such as DVLC Swansea, HMRC at Llan-y-Shan, Border Control at the ports, MoD workers at military installations, HM Coastguard, Armed Forces etc etc. They will remain the concern of Westminster, therefore they will not be public sector workers the responsibility of Wales – they will be Westminster’s. Effectively they will be contract workers and as such they will not count against the Welsh government and as a result the share in Wales that are the responsibility of the Welsh government actually shrinks the more distant we get from London.

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