Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, found himself criticized after he refused to sing the national anthem.
At a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London Tuesday marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Corbyn “stood in respectful silence” as the anthem was played, according to his office.
The image of Corbyn surrounded by men in uniforms singing “God Save The Queen” was on most newspaper front pages, and the story led the BBC’s news bulletins Wednesday morning. It adds to the pressure on the opposition leader, in office only since Saturday, after several senior Labour figures refused to join his shadow cabinet and amid confusion about his policies. Corbyn, who’s said he’d like to abolish the monarchy, needs to boost Labour’s support across Britain if he’s to oust Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in 2020.
“Jeremy Corbyn will have to explain why he didn’t sing it,” Conservative Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told ITV. “I think it’s an important part of being British and an important part of our identity.”
The incident is likely to be raised when Corbyn faces Cameron for the first time for Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament at midday Wednesday.
Corbyn isn’t the first politician to get into trouble over an anthem. In 1993, Conservative Welsh Secretary John Redwood was filmed at an event trying to mime along to the Welsh national hymn, whose words he didn’t know. And in 2007, the future Belgian prime minister, Yves Leterme, broke into France’s “La Marseillaise” instead of Belgium’s “La Brabanconne.”