Tuesday 15 September 2015

On Corbyn, neckwear and commemoration

Jesus could sometimes be bang on the money as, for instance, when he pilloried the scribes and Pharisees in the Book of Luke (Chapter 11, verse 24)

          Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

When the new Leader of the Parliamentaryy Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, took his seat on the opposition front bench yeterday, he was wearing (or 'sporting', if you prefer) a narrow red tie.

Now I've blogged before about politicicans wearing this limp fabric arrow.

There is reportedly some debate in the Labour party surrounding the issue of whether or not Corbyn should wear a traditional red poppy at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, the day we (and our leaders, and the leaders of the Commonwealth, and the Royals) commemorate the dead of two world wars and many subsequent bloody and senseless conflicts down to the present day. It is a noble, introspective and very moving occasion. Some believe that the poppy is a martial device and condones war and the sacrifice of the innocent and is therefore a shameful anachronism, to be avoided or subverted. Even if that is the case, it should be worn by Corbyn and other good Lefties as a way of challenging any such perception. To wear a white poppy, or no poppy, is making the wrong kind of statement - it's churlish and childish and pointlessly provocative and counter-productive and insulting.

If Corbyn has no problem with the great big hairy camel that is a necktie (in Socialist red, even), a brazen symbol of oppressive male hegemony, then surely he and his advisors should have no difficulty at all with the tiny gnat of commemoration. It's a question of humility.

Labour leaders have worn the red poppy with pride alongside their Liberal and Conservative peers since the symbolic commemoration was initiated back in what (without recourse to Wikipedia) I shall simply call the Olden Days.

Some might argue that a white poppy would be more appropriate, being a pacific version of the 'blood red' original; others (and I've just invented this lobby) insist that only a rainbow poppy would sufficiently recognise the many sacrifices made by members of the LGBT community. But we're getting close to the poppy equivalent of the kind of tie sported (never merely 'worn') by the office joker - you know they sort of thing I mean. 

Remembrance Sunday is a solemn occasion and one on which crass individualism and political expediency have no place. It's also a closely-monitored event (and some of you will surely recall the vilification of Michael Foot for wearing what was inaccurately described as a 'donkey jacket' at the Cenotaph).

Corbyn (who did not sing the words of the National Anthem when parliament reconvened this week) is a man of great and admirable integrity. He should certainly wear a red poppy at the Cenotaph this November, and every November, because it is the right thing to do. And a tie. And a warm overcoat.

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