I very much doubt that Jeremy Corbyn should be allowed to join the Privy Council. Privy Counsellors received privileged access to sensitive intelligence information. I ask you, Dear Reader, do you believe that if Jeremy Corbyn received secret information relating to some military attack or assassination that he disagreed with (i.e. to any military attack or assassination – since he disagrees with all of them), he would keep that information secret? Or do you believe that he would regard it as a matter of principle to spread such information, even if doing so would violate Official Secrets commitments and might land him in jail? One has only to ask that question to know the answer. I don’t believe the man can be relied upon.
However, refusing to permit the man that leads the country’s main opposition party – a party that has stood firmly and bravely for Britain in many wars, through many security threats and terrorist incidents – would risk a major constitutional crisis. So I can understand why there is little appetite to refuse to allow him to join the Privy Council if he is indeed willing to undertake the various rituals and oaths that commit him to the process.
But let us be clear: there should be no question whatever of his being permitted to join the Privy Council or indeed to be officially designated Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition if he is not willing to submit himself to the Queen – i.e. to our constitutional processes as they stand. I recognise that he is a republican. That’s fine. He can argue for a change in our constitution. And he can do that from outside the system if he likes, going on anti-monarchist marches and writing anti-monarchist tracts, without submitting himself to the system as it is. He can also, perfectly, consistently, submit himself to the system as it is and argue, from within and openly, that the system should be changed.
But what he cannot do is to refuse to accept the system as it is and simultaneously expect to operate from inside it. One cannot be both rebel and governor at the same time. One must choose.
And in his case it is particularly important that, if he chooses to operate from inside, then he very openly, explicitly and convincingly submits to the system as it currently stands. That would be much less important if there were no question of his not accepting the system. But precisely because his ability to submit to the system as it is is in question, in his case everything must be done to guarantee that he submits and means it.
When I say “means it” I do not mean that he suddenly believes in the monarchy. I mean that when he makes his oaths and promises, he intends to keep them, even if doing so conflicts with some aspect of his own personal ideology.
If Corbyn cannot submit to Her Majesty – kneeling, kissing the ring, saying the oaths, and meaning it – then he cannot be appointed as the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
In that case, we have another option. The leader of the third largest party in Parliament – the SNP Westminster leader, Angus Robertson – is submitting himself to the Queen and joining the Privy Council. If Corbyn refuses to be Her Majesty’s loyal subject, Angus Robertson should be designated Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.