Royal dilemma for Jeremy Corbyn

  • 18/09/2015
Jeremy Corbyn has yet to announce whether he will be formally sworn in to the Privy Council (Reuters)
Jeremy Corbyn has yet to announce whether he will be formally sworn in to the Privy Council (Reuters)

The UK Labour Party's new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is facing a new dilemma in his rocky first days in the job - whether or not to kneel before Queen Elizabeth II.

The republican leftwinger has to formally swear allegiance to the 89-year-old monarch at a ceremony in the coming weeks as part of his new posting.

Asked by a BBC interviewer on Wednesday if he would perform the act of loyalty, the opposition leader said: "I didn't know that was involved actually."

"We'll have to find out about that, ok?" he said.

The Privy Council swearing-in ceremony is normally an obscure piece of British pomp that takes place behind closed doors with a clerk and a few ministers.

When someone is sworn in to the Privy Council, an ancient body of trusted royal counsellors that dates back centuries, they take an oath of allegiance while kneeling on a stool and then kiss the queen's hand.

There are about 400 privy councillors, who include religious leaders, and gatherings are held around once a month.

The leader of Britain's main opposition party traditionally becomes a member of the Privy Council, allowing him or her to receive briefings from the security services after swearing absolute secrecy.

The membership ceremony is purely a formality since Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Corbyn has already been made a member of the council after his landslide leadership election victory last week.

But the ceremonial aspect has taken on added significance, particularly when Corbyn made his views clear by refusing to sing the national anthem God Save the Queen at a World War II memorial on Tuesday.

Labour insisted it was a "respectful silence".