The new Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, will not be at the meeting of the Privy Council today – it would have been his first opportunity to take up membership of the body. The Labour leader has said he is too busy to attend today’s meeting of the council because of prior engagements.
Mr Corbyn, a republican, received an invitation to join the Privy Council when he became Leader of the Opposition in September following his overwhelming victory in the race to become the new head of the Labour Party. It was then up to Mr Corbyn or his staff to arrange his attendance at a meeting where he would make an oath of allegiance to The Queen. But ahead of today’s meeting it has been confirmed that the Labour leader won’t be present as he has engagements already in his diary for the date.
The Privy Council is an advisory body of around 600 members who act now as a link between the Monarchy and the government. It traces its roots back to the rule of the Norman kings who held their council behind closed doors – it was private, hence the term ‘Privy’. Then its members held huge power, helping to direct the king’s policy and make his mind up for him. In more modern times, its role has changed dramatically although it retains some limited, formal functions and it meets around once a month at Buckingham Palace with The Queen, as its head, present.
The decision of Mr Corbyn to miss today’s meeting doesn’t mean that he won’t be taking up his place on this ancient body although there has been heated debate in the weeks since his election as Labour leader about whether he will join the Privy Council. At the centre of this discussion is the question of whether Mr Corbyn would kneel in front of The Queen and kiss her hand as he swore his oath of allegiance to her – the usual procedure for a new counsellor.
The debate intensified when the new Labour leader didn’t sing the National Anthem at a service of commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. He faced heavy criticism for that decision.
It is now being reported that there is a loophole which would allow Mr Corbyn to take up membership without meeting The Queen. An Order in Council allows members of the organization, including The Queen, to admit a new member without them being present.
Photo credit: Chris Beckett via Flickr