Jeremy Corbyn not singing the national anthem isn’t offensive, says WWII RAF veteran

The former pilot says he is more outraged by politicians trying to justify the arms trade

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Indy Politics

A Second World War RAF veteran has intervened in a media storm over Jeremy Corbyn staying silent during the national anthem at a commemoration service.

The new Labour leader on Tuesday attended a memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Photos of Mr Corbyn at the service pictured him maintaining a respectful silence while God Save the Queen was sung.

Most newspapers and news channels have led on the incident on Wednesday ahead of Mr Corbyn’s first Prime Minister’s Questions..

Harry Leslie Smith, a WWII veteran

But Harry Leslie Smith, an RAF veteran of WWII and author, said the incident was not offensive and that he was more offended by politicians who supported the arms trade.

“As a RAF veteran of World War Two I'm not offended by Corbyn not singing national anthem – but I am offended by politicians who sell guns to tyrants,” he tweeted.

“What offends me are those who use ancient wars to sell their dubious war on terror."

The UK government grants arms export licences for countries with highly criticised human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The pilot who made the comments has previously expressed support for the Labour party and spoken at its conference.

Mr Corbyn since told Sky News that he would take “full part” in future commemorations.

In a statement released before the event, Mr Corbyn paid tribute to the RAF and its role in the Battle of Britain.

“My mum served as an air raid warden and my dad in the Home Guard," he said.

“Like that whole generation, they showed tremendous courage and determination to defeat fascism. The heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain is something to which we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

“The loss of life - both civilian and military - should be commemorated so that we both honour their lives and do all that we can to ensure future generations are spared the horrors of war.”

A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn said: “Jeremy attended today’s event to show respect for those who fought in conflicts for Britain.

“As he said in the words issued this morning, the heroism of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain is something to which we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude. He stood in respectful silence during the anthem.”