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Jeremy Corbyn

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The Right Honourable
Jeremy Corbyn
MP
Jeremy Corbyn, Tolpuddle 2016, 1 crop.jpg
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
12 September 2015
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister David Cameron
Theresa May
Deputy Tom Watson
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Leader of the Labour Party
Assumed office
12 September 2015
Deputy Tom Watson
Preceded by Ed Miliband
Member of Parliament
for Islington North
Assumed office
9 June 1983
Preceded by Michael O'Halloran
Majority 21,194 (43.0%)
Personal details
Born Jeremy Bernard Corbyn
(1949-05-26) 26 May 1949 (age 67)
Chippenham, England, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Jane Chapman (m. 1974–79)
Claudia Bracchitta (m. 1987–99)
Laura Álvarez (m. 2013)
Children 3 sons
Residence Islington, North London[1]
Alma mater North London Polytechnic
Website Official website

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (/ˈkɔːrbɪn/; born 26 May 1949)[2] is a British politician who is the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983 and was elected Labour Leader in 2015.[3] Ideologically, he identifies as a democratic socialist.[4]

Born in Chippenham, Wiltshire, Corbyn attended Adams' Grammar School and later North London Polytechnic, though he did not complete his degree. Before entering politics he worked as a representative for various trade unions. His political career began when he was elected to Haringey Council in 1974; later he became secretary of the Islington Constituency Labour Party (CLP). He continued in both roles until he entered the House of Commons as an MP.

As a backbench MP he was known for his activism and rebelliousness, frequently voting against the Labour whip, including when the party was in government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. As Labour Leader, Corbyn advocates a platform of reversing austerity cuts to public services and welfare funding made since 2010, and proposes renationalisation of public utilities and the railways. A longstanding anti-war and anti-nuclear activist, Corbyn supports a foreign policy of military non-interventionism and unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was the national chair of the Stop the War Coalition and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group until his election as leader of the Labour Party.

After Labour's defeat in the 2015 general election and the resignation of Ed Miliband, Corbyn announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party on 6 June 2015. Although he was regarded as a fringe hopeful in the leadership election—having only just secured 35 nominations from fellow Labour MPs to be placed on the ballot—Corbyn quickly emerged as the leading candidate in opinion polls and secured the support of the majority of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party.[5] He was elected Leader of the Labour Party on 12 September 2015, with an overwhelming vote of 59.5% in the first round of the ballot.

In June 2016, in the wake of the "leave" vote in the EU referendum, Labour MPs passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn by 172 votes to 40 following the resignation of around two-thirds of Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet.[6] This challenge led to a leadership contest in which Corbyn is standing for reelection, with voting to be concluded on 21 September 2016.

Early life

Corbyn was born in Chippenham and brought up in nearby Kington St Michael in Wiltshire.[7] He is the youngest of the four sons of Naomi (née Josling; 1915–1987), a maths teacher, and David Benjamin Corbyn (1915–1986), an electrical engineer and expert in power rectifiers. His brother Piers Corbyn is a weather forecaster. His parents were peace campaigners who met in the 1930s at a committee meeting in support of the Spanish Republic at Conway Hall during the Spanish Civil War.[8][9][10] When Corbyn was seven years old, the family moved to Pave Lane in Shropshire, where his father bought "Yew Tree Manor" (renamed "Yew Tree Guesthouse"),[11] converting it into a family home.[7]

Corbyn was educated at Castle House Preparatory School, an independent school near Newport, Shropshire, before attending Adams' Grammar School as a day student.[12][13] While still at school, he became active in The Wrekin constituency Young Socialists, his local Labour Party, and the League Against Cruel Sports.[13] He achieved two E-grade A-Levels before leaving school at 18.[14][15] After school,[16] Corbyn worked briefly as a reporter for a local newspaper, the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser;[17] aged 19 he spent two years doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica.

Early career and political activities

Returning to the UK in 1971, he worked as an official for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers.[12] Corbyn began a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but left after a series of arguments with his tutors over the curriculum. He worked as a trade union organiser for the National Union of Public Employees and Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union,[12][18][19] where his union was approached by Tony Benn and "encouraged ... to produce a blueprint for workers' control of British Leyland"; the plans did not proceed after Benn was moved to a different Department.[20] In the 1975 European Communities referendum, Corbyn opposed Britain's membership of the Common Market.[21]

He was appointed a member of a district health authority and in early 1974, at the age of 24, he was elected to Haringey Council in South Hornsey ward.[22] After boundary changes in 1978 he was re-elected in Harringay ward as councillor, remaining so until 1983.[8][23] As a delegate from Hornsey to the Labour Party conference in 1978, Corbyn successfully moved a motion calling for dentists to be employed by the NHS rather than private contractors.[24] He also spoke in another debate, describing a motion calling for greater support for law and order as "more appropriate to the National Front than to the Labour Party".[25]

Corbyn became the local Labour Party's agent and organiser,[26] and had responsibility for the 1979 general election campaign in Hornsey.[12] Around this time, he became involved with London Labour Briefing, where he was a contributor and member of the editorial board during the 1980s. It has been reported that he served as its general secretary for some time.[27] He worked on Tony Benn's unsuccessful deputy leadership campaign in 1981. He was keen to allow former International Marxist Group member Tariq Ali to join the party, despite Labour's National Executive having declared him unacceptable, and declared that "so far as we are concerned ... he's a member of the party and he'll be issued with a card."[28] In May 1982, when Corbyn was chairman of the Constituency Labour Party, Ali was given a party card signed by Corbyn;[29] in November the local party voted by 17 to 14 to insist on his membership "up to and including the point of disbandment of the party".[30]

In the July 1982 edition of London Labour Briefing, Corbyn opposed expulsions of the Militant tendency, saying that "If expulsions are in order for Militant, they should apply to us too." In the same year, he was the "provisional governor" of "Defeat the Witch-Hunt Campaign", based at Corbyn's then address.[31]

Earlier parliamentary career

Backbencher (1983–97)

Corbyn was selected as the Labour Party candidate for the constituency of Islington North, in February 1982,[19][32] winning the final ballot by 39 votes to 35 for GLC councillor Paul Boateng.[12] At the 1983 general election he was elected Member of Parliament for Islington North[19] and immediately joined the Campaign Group.[33] Shortly after being elected to parliament, he began writing a weekly column for the Morning Star,[34] saying in May 2015 that "the Star is the most precious and only voice we have in the daily media."[35]

He sat on the Social Security Select Committee from 1992 to 1997, the London Regional Select Committee from 2009 to 2010, and the Justice Select Committee from 2010 to 2015.[36]

On the BBC's Newsnight in 1984, Corbyn was invited to discuss the House of Commons' dress code, during which broadcast Conservative MP Terry Dicks asserted that so-called Labour scruffs (such as Corbyn, who at this time was known for wearing open-necked shirts to the Commons[37]) should be banned from addressing the House unless they maintained higher standards. Corbyn responded, saying that: "It's not a fashion parade, it's not a gentleman's club, it's not a bankers' institute, it's a place where the people are represented."[38] Corbyn was a campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, serving on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement,[39] and was arrested in 1984 while demonstrating outside South Africa House.[40][41]

Corbyn became known in the 1980s for his work on behalf of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, who were eventually found to have been wrongly convicted of responsibility for a series of bombings carried out in England in the mid-1970s by the PIRA that killed 28 people.[42][43][44][45][46] Corbyn supported the campaign to overturn the convictions of Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami for the 1994 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London; Botmeh and Alami had admitted possessing explosives and guns but denied they were for use in Britain. The convictions were upheld by the High Court of Justice in 2001 and by the European Court of Human Rights in 2007.[47][48]

Corbyn (center-left) meets members of the UK Somali community with Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham (left) in 2012.

In 1990, Corbyn participated in the resistance movement against the Community Charge, or Poll Tax,[49] nearly going to jail for not paying the tax.[40]

Labour in government

Between 1997 and 2010, during the most recent Labour Government, Corbyn was the Labour MP who voted most often against the party whip, including three-line whip votes. In 2005 he was identified as the second most rebellious Labour MP of all time when the party was in government.[50] He was the most rebellious Labour MP in the 1997–2001 Parliament,[51] the 2001–2005 Parliament[52] and the 2005–2010 Parliament,[53] defying the whip 428 times while Labour was in power.[54] The left-wing Jacobin magazine described him as "a figure who for decades challenged them [Labour Party elites] from the backbench as one of the most rebellious left-wing members of parliament."[55]

In October 2001, Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition, which was formed to oppose the Afghanistan War which started later that year. In 2002, Corbyn reported unrest : "there is disquiet...about issues of foreign policy" among some members of the Labour party. He cited "the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and the threat of bombing Iraq" as examples.[56] He was vehemently opposed to the Iraq War in 2003, and spoke at dozens of anti-war rallies in Britain and overseas. He helped organise the February anti-Iraq War protest which was claimed to be the largest such protest in British political history. In 2006, Corbyn was one of 12 Labour MPs to support Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party's call for a parliamentary inquiry into the Iraq War.[57] He was elected chair of the coalition in succession to Andrew Murray in September 2011, but resigned once he became Leader of the Labour Party in September 2015.[58]

Corbyn is strongly opposed to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and a long-time supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which he joined in 1966 whilst at school.[19] He became one of its three vice-chairs. He was criticised for inviting Gerry Adams and other members of Sinn Féin to the Palace of Westminster in 1984, weeks after the Brighton hotel bombing by the PIRA, which killed five people.[59]

Corbyn speaks at an anti-drone event in April 2013.

Corbyn is a member of a number of Parliamentary Trade Union Groups: he is sponsored by several trade unions, including UNISON, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and Unite. He is a committed anti-fascist, having spoken at the major Unite Against Fascism and Trades Union Congress joint anti-British National Party rally in December 2001, and was the keynote speaker at Unite Against Fascism's annual conference in 2007.

Corbyn was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Chagos Islands, chair of the APPG on Mexico, Vice-Chair of the APPG on Latin America and vice-chair of the APPG on Human Rights. He has advocated for the rights of the forcibly-removed Chagossians to return to the British Indian Ocean Territory and is noted for his Venezuelan solidarity activism.[60]

Expenses and other interests

Corbyn's expenses claims have been in the lower half when all MPs are ranked. A year after the 2009 expenses scandal in one quarter, Corbyn submitted only a claim for an £8.95 printer cartridge; this was the lowest actual office expenses claim, although 78 MPs made no claims at all.[61] In 2011–12 his total claim was £129,597.98 (201st smallest out of 653 MPs in the year)[62] and in 2014–15 he claimed £159,281.35 in total (259th lowest of all MPs).[63] In an interview with The Islington Gazette in late 2010, he said: "I am a parsimonious MP. I think we should claim what we need to run our offices and pay our staff but be careful because it's obviously public money. In a year, rent for the [constituency] office [on] Durham Road, Finsbury Park is about £12,000 to £14,000."[64] Corbyn rents his constituency office from the Ethical Property Company.[65]

Corbyn hosted a call-in show on Press TV, an Iranian government television channel, from 2009 to 2012 for which he was paid £20,000, according to the register of members' interests at the House of Commons.[66] Corbyn's final appearance was six months after the network had its UK broadcasting license revoked by Ofcom for its part in filming the detention and torture of an Iranian journalist.[66] Ofcom ruled in November 2010 that Corbyn did not show due impartiality when he appeared on Press TV as a guest on George Galloway’s weekly show.[67]

Labour in opposition (2010–15)

Corbyn speaking at a demonstration to end the Atos Work Capability Assessment in September 2013

Corbyn was one of 16 signatories to an open letter to Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling for Labour to make a commitment to opposing further austerity, to take rail franchises back into public ownership, and to strengthen collective bargaining arrangements.[68][69]

Corbyn has been returned as Member of Parliament for Islington North seven times, most recently in the 2015 general election, when he gained 60.24% of the votes cast and a majority of 21,194.[70]

Leadership of the Labour Party (2015–present)

Leadership election

Following the Labour Party's defeat at the general election on 7 May 2015, Ed Miliband resigned as its party leader, triggering a leadership election. On 2 June, it was reported in media sources that Corbyn was considering standing as a candidate, having been disillusioned by the lack of a left-wing voice. The next day, Corbyn confirmed to his local newspaper, The Islington Tribune, that he would stand in the election on a "clear anti-austerity platform". He added: "This decision is in response to an overwhelming call by Labour Party members who want to see a broader range of candidates and a thorough debate about the future of the party. I am standing to give Labour Party members a voice in this debate".[71] The other candidates were Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham and Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall.[72][73] Corbyn had the lowest number of nominations from fellow MPs of any Labour Party Leader, and several who nominated him later claimed to have cleared him to run more to widen the political debate within the party than because of a desire or expectation that he would win.[74][75] Nonetheless, he rapidly became the frontrunner among the candidates.

At the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in July 2015, Corbyn joined 47 Labour MPs to oppose the Bill, describing it as "rotten and indefensible", whilst the other three leadership candidates abstained.[76] In August 2015, he called on Iain Duncan Smith to resign as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after it emerged that thousands of disabled people had died after being found fit to work by Work Capability Assessments (instituted in 2008) between 2011 and 2014.[77]

Following a rule change under Miliband, members of the public who supported Labour's aims and values could join the party as "registered supporters" for £3 and be entitled to vote in the election.[78] There was speculation the rule change would lead to Corbyn being elected by registered supporters without majority support from ordinary members.[79] Corbyn was elected party leader in a landslide victory on 12 September 2015 with 59.5% of first-preference votes in the first round of voting.[80] It has been calculated that Corbyn would have won in the first round with 51% of votes, even without "£3 registered supporters", having gained the support of 49.6% of full members and 57.6% of affiliated supporters.[79][81] Corbyn's 40.5% majority was larger than that attained by Tony Blair in 1994.[82][83] His margin of victory was said to be "the largest mandate ever won by a party leader", though no previous Labour leader had been elected with so little support from its own MPs.[84]

Opinion polls during the first few months of his leadership gave Corbyn lower personal approval ratings than any previous Labour leader in the early stages of their leadership amongst the general public.[85] His approval amongst party members, however, was initially strong reaching a net approval of +45 in May 2016, though this fell back sharply to just +3 by the end of the next month following criticism of Corbyn's handling of the EU referendum and a string of Shadow Cabinet resignations.[86]

Leader of the Opposition

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the #StopTrident rally at Trafalgar Square on Saturday 27 February 2016.

After being elected leader on 12 September 2015, Corbyn became Leader of the Official Opposition.[87][88] On 14 September 2015, his appointment to the Privy Council was announced.[2][89][90][91] Two days later Corbyn engaged in his first Prime Minister's Questions session as leader and broke with the traditional format by asking the Prime Minister six questions he had received from members of the public, the result of his invitation to Labour Party members to send suggestions, for which he received around 40,000 emails.[92] Corbyn stressed his desire to reduce the "theatrical" nature of the House of Commons, and his debut was described by The Guardian as "a good start" and a "long overdue" change to the tone of PMQs.[93] He delivered his first Labour Annual Conference address as leader on 29 September 2015.[94] As Leader of the Opposition he was made a member of the Privy Council on 11 November 2015.[95]

First shadow cabinet

On 13 September 2015, Corbyn unveiled his Shadow Cabinet. He appointed his leadership campaign manager and long-standing political ally John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor, leadership opponent Andy Burnham as Shadow Home Secretary, and Angela Eagle as Shadow First Secretary of State to deputise for him in the House of Commons. Corbyn promoted a number of female backbench MPs to Shadow Cabinet roles, including Diane Abbott, Heidi Alexander and Lisa Nandy, making his the first Shadow Cabinet with more women than men.[96]

Military intervention in Syria

After members of Islamic State carried out terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Corbyn suggested that the only way to deal with the threat posed by the jihadist group would be to reach a political settlement aimed at resolving the Syrian Civil War.[97] Prime Minister David Cameron sought to build political consensus for UK military intervention against IS targets in Syria in the days after the attacks. Speaking at a regional party conference in Bristol on 21 November, Corbyn warned against "external intervention" in Syria but told delegates that Labour would "consider the proposals the Government brings forward".[98][99]

Cameron set out his case for military intervention to Parliament on 26 November, telling MPs that it was the only way to guarantee Britain's safety and would be part of a "comprehensive" strategy to defeat ISIS.[100] Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet met immediately after the Prime Minister's statement in which Corbyn said he would continue with efforts "to reach a common view" on Syria, while Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn suggested the case for air strikes was "compelling".[101] Later that evening Corbyn sent a letter to Labour MPs saying that he could not support military action against Islamic State: "The issue [is] whether what the Prime Minister is proposing strengthens, or undermines, our national security...I do not believe the current proposal for air strikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it."[100] Amid widespread reports of division in the Parliamentary Labour Party and criticism of his leadership, Corbyn, on the Andrew Marr Show, said he was "not going anywhere" and was "enjoying every minute" of his leadership, insisting that the final decision on whether the Labour Party would oppose air strikes rested with him.[102] On 30 November, Corbyn agreed that Labour MPs would be given a free vote on air strikes when the issue was voted on two days later. A total of 66 Labour MPs voted for the Syrian air strikes, including Hilary Benn and Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, while Corbyn and the majority of Labour MPs voted against.[103][104][105]

January 2016 Shadow Cabinet reshuffle

Corbyn and Hilary Benn meet with President Obama in April 2016.

There was widespread speculation following the vote that Corbyn would reshuffle his Shadow Cabinet to remove Hilary Benn, but Corbyn's January reshuffle retained Benn in the same position.[106] The reshuffle prompted the resignations of three junior shadow ministers who were unhappy that Corbyn had demoted MPs who disagreed with his position on Syria and Trident.[107]

On 6 January 2016, Corbyn replaced Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher with Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle (who was in turn replaced by Shadow Employment Minister Emily Thornberry).[108] Thornberry, unlike Maria Eagle, is an opponent of nuclear weapons and British involvement in Syria. Eagle was in turn moved to Shadow Culture Secretary to replace Michael Dugher. Corbyn lso replaced Shadow Europe Minister (not attending Shadow Cabinet) Pat McFadden with Pat Glass.[108] The reshuffle prompted three junior shadow ministers to resign in solidarity with McFadden: Shadow Rail Minister Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones and Shadow Foreign Minister Stephen Doughty.[108][109] On 7 January, Reynolds was replaced by Andy McDonald, Doughty by Fabian Hamilton, Jones by Kate Hollern and Thornberry by Angela Rayner; as well as appointing Jenny Chapman to the education team and Jo Stevens to the justice team.[110]

On 11 January 2016, Shadow Attorney General Catherine McKinnell resigned, citing party infighting, family reasons and the ability to speak in Parliament beyond her legal portfolio. She was replaced by Karl Turner.[111]

Summer 2016 leadership crisis

The EU referendum

Despite earlier comments during the leadership campaign that there might be circumstances in which he would favour withdrawl,[112] in September 2015, Corbyn said that Labour will campaign for Britain to stay in the EU regardless of the result of Cameron's negotiations, and instead "pledge to reverse any changes" if Cameron reduces the rights of workers or citizens.[113] He also believed that Britain should play a crucial role in Europe by making demands about working arrangements across the continent, the levels of corporation taxation and in forming an agreement on environmental regulation.[114]

In June 2016, in the run-up to the EU referendum, Corbyn said that there was an "overwhelming case" for staying in the EU. In a speech in London, Corbyn said: "We, the Labour Party, are overwhelmingly for staying in, because we believe the European Union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment." Corbyn also criticised media coverage and warnings from both sides, saying that the debate had been dominated too much by "myth-making and prophecies of doom".[115] However on 11 June he admitted his passion for staying in the EU was only "seven, or seven and a half" out of 10.[116]

On 24 June, the morning after the vote, Corbyn implied that the withdrawal process should start immediately saying that "Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from the European Union",[117][118]

Following the public voting to leave the EU, Corbyn was accused of “lukewarm” campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union and showing a "lack of leadership" on the issue by several party figures[119][120] Alan Johnson, who headed up the Labour In for Britain campaign said “at times" it felt as if Corbyn's office was "working against the rest of the party and had conflicting objectives”. Corbyn's decision to go on holiday during the campaign was criticised,[121]

A month after the result became known, he told Evan Davis of Newsnight: "I may not have put that as well as I should have done," that the treaty will be invoked at some stage but there was no rush.[122]

Shadow Cabinet resignations

Three days after the EU referendum, Hilary Benn was sacked after it was disclosed that he had been organizing a mass resignation of shadow cabinet members to force Corbyn to stand down.[123][124] Heidi Alexander resigned from the Shadow Cabinet hours later, followed by Gloria de Piero, Ian Murray,[125][126][127] Lilian Greenwood, Lucy Powell, Kerry McCarthy, Seema Malhotra, Vernon Coaker, Charlie Falconer, and Chris Bryant.[128] Other Shadow Cabinet Ministers, including John McDonnell, Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott, Jon Trickett, Angela Smith, Emily Thornberry and Lord Bassam of Brighton have either supported Corbyn's leadership directly or have said that it was an inappropriate time for a rebellion.[129] Emily Thornberry, shadow defence secretary, said: "The country is calling out for the Labour party to step up ... we must do that in a unified way. Now is not the time for internecine conflict." Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary, also said it was not the time for a "civil war" in the party.[130] Corbyn said he regretted the resignations from the shadow cabinet, but he said he would not "betray the trust of those who voted for me". "Those who want to change Labour’s leadership will have to stand in a democratic election, in which I will be a candidate."[131]

By mid-afternoon on 27 June 2016, 23 of the 31 shadow cabinet members had resigned their roles as did seven parliamentary private secretaries. Earlier Corbyn announced changes to his shadow cabinet, moving Emily Thornberry (to Shadow Foreign Secretary), Diane Abbott (to Shadow Health Secretary), and appointing the following to his shadow cabinet: Pat Glass, Andy McDonald, Clive Lewis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Kate Osamor, Rachael Maskell, Cat Smith and Dave Anderson. According to a source quoted by the BBC, the party's Deputy Leader Tom Watson told Corbyn that "it looks like we are moving towards a leadership election". Corbyn reiterated that he would run again in that event.[132] During the day Corbyn filled some of the resulting shadow cabinet vacancies,[133] however just two days later one of the newly appointed members, Pat Glass, resigned, saying that "the situation is untenable".[134]

Vote of no confidence

A motion of no confidence in Corbyn as Labour leader was tabled by the MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey in a letter to the chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party on 24 June 2016.[135] Hodge said "This has been a tumultuous referendum which has been a test of leadership ... Jeremy has failed that test". John McDonnell and union leaders including Len McCluskey condemned the motion, saying regards the referendum campaign that "Corbyn was honest and straightforward about a complex question" and that the 'Labour mutineers' were "plunging their party into an unwanted crisis are betraying not only the party itself but also our national interest at one of the most critical moments."[136][137]

On 28 June he lost the vote of confidence by Labour Party MPs by 172–40.[6] He responded with a statement that the motion had no "constitutional legitimacy" and that he intended to continue as the elected leader. The vote does not require the party to call a leadership election[138] but, according to Anushka Asthana of The Guardian, "the result is likely to lead to a direct challenge to Corbyn as some politicians scramble to collect enough nominations to trigger a formal challenge to his leadership."[139] By 29 June, Corbyn had been encouraged to resign by Tom Watson and senior Labour politicians including his predecessor, Ed Miliband.[140] Several union leaders (from GMB, UCATT, the CWU, the TSSA, ASLEF, the FBU, the BFWAU and the NUM) issued a joint statement saying that Corbyn was "the democratically-elected leader of Labour and his position should not be challenged except through the proper democratic procedures provided for in the party's constitution" and that a leadership election would be an "unnecessary distraction". Diane Abbott, shadow health secretary, said that cabinet resignations and secret ballot had no status under the party rule book. “MPs don’t choose the leader of the Labour party, the party does".[141] A YouGov poll of Labour party members carried out between the 27 and 30 June found that about 50% expected to back Corbyn if a leadership ballot was called.[142] London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who did not take a side in the dispute, said "When Labour splits, when we're divided, we lose elections".[143]

Trident and the renewal vote

The issue of renewing the Trident system was expected to exacerbate differences in the party, with official policy remaining in favour of renewing the system despite Corbyn being a longstanding supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament.[144] Earlier in 2016, Corbyn had suggested a compromise of having submarines without nuclear weapons.[145][146] On 18 June 2016, he agreed to a free vote, with 140 Labour MPs voted with the government in favour of the new submarines, in line with party policy, and 47 joining Corbyn to vote against.[144] Corbyn reiterated his position that the UK should "move rapidly towards [nuclear] disarmament" after the vote.[144]

Over 60% of the Labour MPs did not support Corbyn's position and the BBC's Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, reported that "a succession of the party's MPs accused Mr Corbyn of opposing official party policy by arguing against it at this stage with one, Jamie Reed, calling his stance 'juvenile and narcissistic'".[147]

2016 leadership challenges

The division between Corbyn and the Labour parliamentary party continued.[148][149] On 4 July 2016 Angela Eagle, who had recently resigned from his shadow cabinet, repeated that she was ready to mount the primary challenge to his leadership. In an interview with Sky News, she said, "I have the support to run and resolve this impasse and I will do so if Jeremy doesn't take action soon.[150] On the same day, Corbyn defended his continued party leadership based on his mandate from Labour party members, writing in the Sunday Mirror: “I am ready to reach out to Labour MPs who didn’t accept my election and oppose my leadership – and work with the whole party to provide the alternative the country needs.”[151] Eagle formally launched her leadership campaign on 11 July 2016.[152] After news reports that Eagle's office had been vandalised on 11 July 2016, and threats and abuse to other MPs, including death threats to himself Corbyn said: "It is extremely concerning that Angela Eagle has been the victim of a threatening act" and called for "respect and dignity, even where there is disagreement."[153][154]

Late on 12 July 2016, following a dispute as to whether the elected leader would need nominations in an election as a "challenger" to their own leadership, the Labour Party National Executive Committee (N.E.C.) resolved that Corbyn, as the incumbent leader, had an automatic right to be on the ballot.[155] At that same meeting the Labour Party N.E.C. decided that members need to have signed up on or before 12 January 2016 to be eligible to vote (nearly 130,000 people had become Labour Party members alone since the EU referendum alone, would not be allowed to vote). The N.E.C. did however decide that “registered supporters” would be entitled to vote, for its next leader of the Labour Party, if they paid a one off fee of £25 during a two-day window between 17:00 BST on 18 and 17:00 BST on 20 July. 184,541 people paid the one-off fee to become “registered supporters” of the party, allowing them to vote. Owen Smith said “in last 48 hours more people have registered as Labour supporters than the entire membership of the Tory party". Along with the 388,000 people who were full members six months ago, plus the 147,134 (July 2015 figure) affiliated supporters (mostly from affiliated trade unions and socialist societies), this means that over 700,000 will have a vote in the leadership election.[156][157][158][159]

On 13 July, Owen Smith entered the Labour Party leadership race.[160] Subsequently, on 19 July, Angela Eagle withdrew and offered her endorsement to Smith.[161]

The results of an Ipsos MORI survey, polling British public as a whole, released on 14 July indicated that 66% of those surveyed believed that the Labour party needed a new leader before the 2020 elections. As well, only 23 percent believed that Corbyn would make a good Prime Minister while Theresa May had an approval rating of 55 percent.[162] A Opinium/Observer poll on 23 July found that among those who say they back Labour, 54% support Corbyn against just 22% who would prefer Smith. Some 20% say they are undecided and 4% say they do not intend to vote. When voters were asked who they thought would be the best prime minister – Corbyn or Theresa May – among Labour supporters 48% said Corbyn and 22% May, among all UK voters 52% chose May and just 16% Corbyn.[163]

A civil High Court legal challenge was brought by Labour donor Michael Foster, to contest the decision to allow Corbyn to be a candidate without having to secure nominations from Labour MPs. The case went to court on 26 July 2016. General Secretary of the Labour Party Iain McNicol was the first defendant on behalf of the members of the Labour Party. Corbyn applied to the court, and was accepted, to be the second defendant with his own legal team as Corbyn was "particularly affected and particularly interested in the proper construction of the rules" and that McNicol was "being expected to vigorously defend a position which he regarded as incorrect prior to the NEC decision".[164] The High Court ruled in Corbyn's favour that under the Labour's leadership rules the incumbent leader (where there is no vacancy) “was not a 'challenger' for the leadership and, accordingly, would require no nominations in order to compete in the ballot to retain his/her position as leader”. It concluded: "Accordingly, the judge accepted that the decision of the NEC was correct and that Mr Corbyn was entitled to be a candidate in the forthcoming election without the need for nominations."[165][166]

According to Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer's political columnist: "The truth is that Labour MPs would not have acted this summer but for the Brexit vote. It was the shock of that, combined with collective horror about Mr Corbyn’s response to it, which finally pushed them into despairing action".[167] On 24 July 2016, he wrote that "the MPs do not have the backing of a large chunk of the party selectorate that picks the leader. Much of that selectorate is wildly unrepresentative of the voters that Labour must persuade if the party is to survive as a plausible opposition, never mind become a viable competitor for power".[167]

Additional issues during Corbyn's leadership

Response to the Chilcot report

The Chilcot report of the Iraq Inquiry was issued on 6 July 2016 criticising the former Labour PM Tony Blair for joining the United States in the war against Iraq. Subsequently, Corbyn – who had voted against military action against Iraq – gave a speech in Westminster commenting: "I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003" which he called an "act of military aggression launched on a false pretext" something that has "long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international opinion".[168] Corbyn specifically apologised to "the people of Iraq"; to the families of British soldiers who died in Iraq or returned injured; and to "the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on."[169]

Media coverage of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party

Labour Party membership under recent leaders
         Labour Party full members (excluding affiliates and supporters)[170][171][172][173][174]
100,000
200,000
300,000
400,000
500,000
600,000
2000
2006 G.Brown
Aug 2015  J.Corbyn
July 2016

An academic report into the British media representations of Corbyn by the London School of Economics argues that the media has systematically attacked and delegitimised Corbyn as a political leader ever since he rose to national prominence in the summer of 2015. The authors argued that Corbyn was represented with scorn and ridicule in both the broadsheet and tabloid press “through a process of vilification that went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy”[175] A report by Birkbeck, University of London and the Media Reform Coalition analysed TV and online news during the 10 days after the wave of resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet following the Brexit vote in late June 2016, found “a marked and persistent imbalance in favour of sources critical of Jeremy Corbyn”. [176] Roy Greenslade, acknowledged the media had been consistently hostile to Corbyn, but described the weight of criticism against Corbyn as "unsurprising" given the circumstances, arguing “With something like 80% of his parliamentary party against him, would democracy benefit from a failure to reflect that reality?”[177]

Growth in the Labour Party

During and after Corbyn's leadership election, there was a large increase in the number of Labour Party members; from 201,293 on 6 May 2015 (the day before the 2015 general election) to 388,407 on 10 January 2016. Local Labour constituency offices have attributed this rise mainly to the "Corbyn effect".[178] Reflecting an increased interest among the young, university cities and towns recorded some of the biggest rises. Following Corbyn's election as Leader of the Labour Party, Bath's Labour Party membership increased from 300 to 1,322 and Colchester's from 200–250 to 1,000.[178] Momentum, a grassroots movement supportive of Corbyn and the Labour Party,[179][180] has (as of July 2016) about 12,000 members.[181] Following the EU membership referendum on 23 June 2016, and the many resignations of shadow ministers which followed,[182] 100,000 new members joined the Labour Party, raising Labour’s total membership to 503,143.[174][183]

Other policies and views

Corbyn addressing London's People's Assembly Demonstration in June 2014

Taxation and economy

Corbyn has campaigned against Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes,[184] supported a higher rate of income tax for the wealthiest in society,[185] and his shadow chancellor proposed the introduction of a £10 per hour living wage.[186] He advocates recouping losses from tax avoidance and evasion by investing £1 billion in HMRC.[187] Corbyn would also seek to reduce an estimated £93 billion that companies receive in tax relief[188][189][190] The amount is made up of several reliefs, including railway and energy subsidies, regional development grants, relief on investment and government procurement from the private sector.[189]

Jeremy Corbyn opposes austerity, and has advocated an economic strategy based on investing-to-grow as opposed to making spending cuts. During his first Labour leadership election campaign, Corbyn proposed that the Bank of England should be able to print money for capital spending, especially housebuilding, instead of quantitative easing, that attempts to stimulate the economy by buying assets from commercial banks. He describes it as "People's Quantitative Easing".[68] A number of economists, including Steve Keen argued in a letter to The Guardian that despite claims to the contrary there was nothing "extreme left" about the anti-austerity policies he proposed in his leadership campaign[191] Robert Skidelsky offered a qualified endorsement of Corbyn's proposals to carry out QE through a National Investment Bank.[191][192] As the policy would change the central bank's focus on stabilising prices, however, it has been argued increase the perceived risk of investing in the UK and raise the prospect of increased inflation[193] His second leadership campaign saw him promise £500billion in additional public spending, though he neglected to offer any detail on how he expected to fund it[194]

Under his leadership of the Labour Party, an Economic Advisory Committee was formed, initially consisting of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty, the Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis, and others, to help shape Labour's anti-austerity economic policies.[195]

Foreign affairs

Corbyn speaking for Global Justice Now in February 2015

Corbyn does not consider himself an absolute pacifist and has named the Spanish Civil War, the British naval blockade to stop the slave trade in the 19th century and the role of UN peacekeepers in the 1999 crisis in East Timor as justified conflicts.[196] However, opposing violence and war has been "the whole purpose of his life".[197] He prominently opposed the invasion of Iraq and war in Afghanistan, NATO-led military intervention in Libya,[198] military strikes against Assad's Syria, and military action against ISIS, and served as the chair of the Stop The War Coalition.[199] When challenged on whether there were any circumstances in which he would deploy military services overseas he said "I'm sure there are some but I can't think of them at the moment."[199] Corbyn has criticized Britain's close ties with Saudi Arabia and British involvement in Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[200] He has called for Tony Blair to be investigated for alleged war crimes during the Iraq War.[201]

Corbyn has been vocal on Middle East foreign policy. He is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, campaigning against conflict in Gaza and what the organisation considers to be apartheid in Israel.[202] At a meeting hosted by Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Corbyn said he invited "friends" from Hamas and Hezbollah to an event in parliament, referred to Hamas as "an organization dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people," and said that the British government's labelling of Hamas as a terrorist organisation is "a big, big historical mistake."[203] Asked on Channel 4 News in July 2015 why he had called representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah "friends", Corbyn explained, "I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk," and that the specific occasion he used it was to introduce speakers from Hezbollah at a Parliamentary meeting about the Middle East. He said that he does not condone the actions of either organisation: "Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree … There is not going to be a peace process unless there is talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas and I think everyone knows that", he argued.[204] He has called for the lifting of sanctions as part of a negotiated full settlement of issues concerning the Iranian nuclear programme, and the starting of a political process to decommission Israel's nuclear arsenal.[205][206][207]

In April 2014, Corbyn wrote an article for the Morning Star attributing the crisis in Ukraine to NATO. He said the "root of the crisis" lay in "the US drive to expand eastwards" and described Russia's actions as "not unprovoked".[208] He has said it "probably was" a mistake to allow former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO: "NATO expansion and Russian expansion – one leads to the other, and one reflects the other".[208][209] Corbyn's views on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO were criticised by a number of writers, including Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group,[210] Anne Applebaum in The Sunday Times,[211] Ben Judah in The Independent,[212] and Roger Boyes in The Times.[213] Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Edward Lucas said that Corbyn's "anti-imperialist sentiments did not stretch to understanding countries such as Ukraine".[214] Lithuanian ambassador Asta Skaisgirytė disagreed with Corbyn's portrayal of NATO, saying her country was not "forced or lured into NATO as part of an American global power grab. We were pounding on the door of the alliance, demanding to be let in".[215]

Corbyn told The Guardian in August 2015: "I am not an admirer or supporter of Putin's foreign policy, or of Russian or anybody else's expansion". Corbyn would like to pull the United Kingdom out of NATO,[216] but has acknowledged that there is not an appetite for it among the public and instead intends to push for NATO to "restrict its role".[217]

Personal life

Corbyn lives in Islington, North London.[1] In 1974, Corbyn married Jane Chapman, a fellow Labour Councillor for Haringey and now a professor at the University of Lincoln;[19] they divorced in 1979.[218] In 1987, Corbyn married Chilean exile Claudia Bracchitta, granddaughter of Ricardo Bracchitta (Cónsul General de España en Santiago) and niece of Dr Óscar Soto Guzman,[219] by whom he has three sons. Following a difference of opinion about sending their son to a grammar school – Corbyn opposes selective education – they divorced in 1999, although Corbyn said in June 2015 that he continues to "get on very well" with his former wife.[18][220] His son subsequently attended Queen Elizabeth's School, which was his wife's first choice.[221] In 2013, Corbyn married his long-term domestic partner Laura Álvarez,[222] a Mexican émigrée who runs a fair-trade coffee import business.[223] Álvarez has described Corbyn as "not very good at house work but he is a good politician".[224] He has a cat called 'El Gato'.[225]

Interviewed by The Huffington Post in December 2015, Corbyn refused to say what his religious beliefs were, saying that they were a "private thing", while denying that he was an atheist. He has said that he is 'sceptical' of having a god in his life.[225] He described his concerns about the environment as a sort of "spiritualism".[226] Corbyn has described himself as frugal, telling Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian, "I don't spend a lot of money, I lead a very normal life, I ride a bicycle and I don't have a car".[18] He has been vegetarian since the age of 20, following a stint working on a pig farm in Jamaica. Although he has been described in the media as teetotal, he said in an interview with the Mirror newspaper that he does drink but "very, very little".[19][227][228]

Corbyn is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling.[229][230] He enjoys reading and writing,[228] and speaks fluent Spanish.[231] He supports Arsenal F.C., based in his constituency, and has signed parliamentary motions praising the successes of the club's men's and women's teams.[232] He named Jens Lehmann, Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp as his favourite Arsenal players, and has campaigned for the club to pay its staff a living wage.[233]

Awards and recognition

In 2013, Corbyn was awarded the Gandhi International Peace Award for his "consistent efforts over a 30-year parliamentary career to uphold the Gandhian values of social justice and non‐violence."[234][235] In the same year, he was honoured by the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative for his "ongoing support for a number of non-government organisations and civil causes".[236] Corbyn has won the Parliamentary "Beard of the Year Award" a record six times, as well as being named as the Beard Liberation Front's Beard of the Year, having previously described his beard as "a form of dissent" against New Labour.[237][238]

In January 2016 it was announced that a satirical musical based on Corbyn's life, and written by Rupert Myers and Bobby Friedman, would be staged at the Waterloo East Theatre in London later in the year. BBC News suggested that Corbyn the Musical: The Motorcycle Diaries "may be the first stage show written about a leader of the opposition".[239]

See also

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
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Michael O'Halloran
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for Islington North

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Leader of the Labour Party
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Harriet Harman
Leader of the Opposition
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