Jeremy Corbyn reads anti-war poem at Islington Remembrance ceremony

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister David Cameron wait to lay wreaths (Gareth Full

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister David Cameron wait to lay wreaths (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire) - Credit: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recited an anti-war poem at an Islington memorial to the war dead on Remembrance Sunday.

The Islington North MP and life-long pacifist read Futility, a poem by the First World War poet and soldier Wilfred Owen, which is about a fallen soldier, before laying a wreath in remembrance of soldiers who have died for their country. Fewer than 50 people – many of them journalists - listened to him in silence as he stood in front of the War Memorial Arch in Royal Northern Gardens, Holloway, on Sunday.

In the past, the MP has questioned the commemoration of the First World War. On Sunday, however, he was wearing a red poppy rather than the white one that has been adopted by pacifists.

Addressing the small gathering in Manor Gardens, Mr Corbyn said: “Let us mourn all those who have fallen, but genuinely resolve to build a world of peace. The world is not at peace. The world is insecure; there are dangers, there are threats and there are sadly millions of people who are displaced and desperately seeking refuge.

“Some of our services are doing a fantastic job dealing with the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and helping migrants in the Mediterranean to survive. We have to reach out the hand of friendship and humanity to bring about that world of peace. That is what this community did when it built that war memorial.”

Speaking about his choice of poem before the reading, Mr Corbyn added: “Much of war is encompassed in the memory of the description of poets who vividly see things because they are going through that trauma.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Labour leader laid a wreath at the Cenotaph ceremony in Whitehall. Afterwards, he faced criticism for being the only politician who did not bow when he laid a poppy wreath.

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Move him into the sun—

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields half-sown.

Always it woke him, even in France,

Until this morning and this snow.

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,—

Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.

Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,

Full-nerved—still warm—too hard to stir?

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth’s sleep at all?

Wilfred Owen, 1918