Jeremy Corbyn finally did David Cameron a favour last week and weighed into the EU referendum debate. Cameron’s unlikely to get his desired result without a decent turnout from Labour supporters backing Remain. But Corbyn, who’s personally unconvinced of the European project, has kept him hanging on before finally committing to the cause in a decent speech.
In return Cameron put Corbyn in a tight spot by announcing he’d be paying tribute to Her Majesty this week on the occasion of her birthday.
For the Labour leader is of course a lifelong republican.
In years gone by the bearded wonder would have used a session like the one planned in parliament for Thursday to claim the monarchy is an anachronism and the Windsors ought to pay their way.
But back then he was on the backbenches, and all assumed that’s where he’d stay.
To do the same schtick this week from his new spot at the despatch box would look petty at best, electorally suicidal at worst.
For whether Corbyn likes it or not most of the country remains in awe of the monarch still doing her duties at 90.
Cameron will have no qualms about laying it on thick in his praise for the Queen, no doubt dropping in the usual self-deprecating tale or two about how she has helped him or caught him out on the finer points of Prime Ministering.
But Corbyn faces a test. Does he follow suit and face accusations of insincerity or selling out? Or does he temper his praise with political points, pay tribute to the Queen but criticise the institution she heads?
The Labour leader’s team is stuffed with true believers in his left wing ways, so far they’ve not showed they’ve the talent to temper their ideals in the name of pragmatism – or politics as it’s usually called.
The irony is that if the tittle tattle is to be believed Corbyn and the Queen are on a wavelength when it comes to the EU referendum.
It was reported earlier this year that Her Majesty backed Brexit, though the evidence for this claim was thin to say the least and Buckingham House have a complaint about the article ongoing.
It does seem that the Queen in conversation with Nick Clegg may have once expressed some dissatisfaction with the EU. That’s not the same as backing Brexit, no-one in the In campaign would say the EU is perfect or indeed not in need of fundamental reform.
The former Lib Dem leader, it’s worth pointing out, was not the source of the story. The mole hasn’t been officially outed. High profile Brexiteer Michael Gove was at the lunch at which the exchange is claimed to have taken place.
Corbyn too has grave reservations about the EU, particularly that it’s essentially a capitalist club while he is a socialist.
Given the Queen’s vow of silence on all things political she too may be a socialist for all we know. Though it seems unlikely.
Of course some may take issue with the idea that the Queen keeps out of politics. Her whispered slip that Scots ought to “think very carefully” in the run up to the referendum on independence remains a source of some controversy as to whether it was a straightforward piece of common sense advice or a coded and calculated call to reject separation.
Either way her standing has not been dented.
As she approaches 90 she may well look at her current crop of politicians squabbling over the issues of the day and conclude little has changed in her nine decades.
While the rest of us may look at them and at her and give thanks that she has remained constant all that time.