Sir Keir Starmer has picked the EU anthem as the piece of classical music that “sums up the Labour Party”.
The Opposition leader talked about the “sense of destiny” and “moving forward to a better place” in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which includes the choral Ode to Joy, in a radio interview.
Asked what piece of classical music best sums up Labour, Sir Keir told Classic FM: “One of the pieces I’ve got is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the choral Ode to Joy.
“You’ve got the orchestra, you’ve got the voices, you’ve got this big combination. This is very sort of Labour.
“You’re getting everybody, Beethoven’s getting everybody on to the stage for this.
“I talk about a national mission for the next Labour government. This is a sense of something. It has got a sense of destiny and is hugely optimistic.
“And so, for me, that’s been hardwired in me for a long, long time. So, I would go with that.
“There are many others that I could associate with the Labour Party, but that sense of moving forward to a better place is incredibly powerful.”
Sir Keir has made clear that returning to the EU’s single market or customs union is a line Labour does not want to cross and the party said it would not put the UK in a position where it is a “rule-taker” if it wins power.
But he has hinted he would seek a closer relationship with the bloc, saying co-operation is needed to tackle issues like the crisis of migrants making dangerous journeys across the English Channel in small boats from France.
Beethoven’s symphony is one of the most popular pieces of classical music and has been used at events including the BBC Proms as well as for the EU’s anthem since the 1980s.
A source close to Sir Keir later suggested the association of his choice with Brussels was coincidental, saying it has “nothing to do” with the leader’s views on the bloc.
Sir Keir, a former junior scholar at Guildhall who played the flute, piano and violin as a child, has spoken previously of listening to Beethoven more generally to help deal with the strains of work, describing classical music as a “great release” for him.
He has also highlighted the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto, the Emperor Concerto, as a piece he listens to after a difficult day.
“There is that beautiful bit about a third of the way in where it’s just the piano, totally on its own to start with, sort of rolling down the notes, and it’s absolutely phenomenal,” he said.
A source close to Sir Keir said: “It is well documented Keir Starmer has always listened to a lot of Beethoven – his choice has nothing to do with his opinions on the EU.”