Jeremy Corbyn swiftly issued a statement this morning on the retirement of Prince Philip from Royal duties:
“I would like to pay tribute to Prince Philip following his decision to retire from public service. He has dedicated his life to supporting the Queen and our country with a clear sense of public duty. His Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations. We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”
The speed of the statement presumably came because Corbyn was aware his previous stance on the monarchy has been less than popular – though that hasn’t stopped various of his fans (and one of his MPs) tweeting criticism towards the 95-year-old war hero and Royal consort, some of it deeply unpleasant.
To put Corbyn’s remarks in some context, it’s useful to recall some 1970s and 1980s history.
In 1979, Prince Philip’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA – just one example of “the bomb and the bullet” that John McDonnell said would unite Ireland. Corbyn’s “comrade” Gerry Adams defended Mountbatten’s murder shortly afterwards, saying: “The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution”. A few short years later, just after the Brighton bomb, Corbyn invited convicted IRA bombers to tea in Parliament.
Far from “working for peace” with the IRA, as some of his supporters claim, in 1985 he was opposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement and as recently as 2015 he refused seven opportunities in a row to condemn the IRA’s terrorist campaign.
Given that history, we might perhaps want to take the Labour leader’s “tribute” to the Duke of Edinburgh with a hefty pinch of salt.