Jeremy Corbyn

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The Right Honourable
Jeremy Corbyn
MP
Jeremy Corbyn crop.jpg
Corbyn in April 2014
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
12 September 2015
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister David Cameron
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 66)
Chippenham, Wiltshire, England, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)
  • Jane Chapman (m. 1974–79)
  • Claudia Bracchitta (m. 1987–99)
  • Laura Álvarez (m. 2013)
Children 3 sons
Alma mater University of North London
Website jeremycorbyn.org.uk

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (/kɔːrbɪn/; born 26 May 1949)[1] 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.[2] Ideologically, he identifies as a democratic socialist.

Born in Chippenham in Wiltshire, Corbyn attended Adams' Grammar School and later North London Polytechnic without attaining a 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 and later was secretary of the Islington Constituency Labour Party (CLP). He continued in both roles until he entered the House of Commons as an MP.

Corbyn has received awards for his work as an international human rights campaigner. As an MP he is known for his activism and rebelliousness, frequently voting against the Labour whip when the party was in government under New Labour leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Corbyn advocates an anti-austerity platform of reversing austerity cuts to public sector and welfare funding made since 2010, proposing preventing tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals, reducing corporate subsidies, and pursuing an invest-to-grow economic strategy as an alternative. He proposes renationalisation of public utilities and the railways, abolishing university tuition fees, and financing "People's Quantitative Easing" to fund infrastructure and renewable energy projects. A longstanding anti-war and anti-nuclear activist, Corbyn supports a foreign policy of military non-interventionism and a unilateral policy of nuclear disarmament. Corbyn is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He was the national chair of the Stop the War Coalition from June 2011 until September 2015.

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 sufficient nominations from fellow Labour MPs to be placed on the ballot—Corbyn quickly emerged as the lead candidate in opinion polls and secured the support of the majority of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party.[3] He was elected Leader of the Labour Party on 12 September 2015, with a landslide vote of 59.5% in the first round of the ballot.

Early life and career

Corbyn was born in Chippenham and brought up in nearby Kington St Michael in Wiltshire.[4] The youngest of four sons, he is the brother of weather forecaster Piers Corbyn, and the son of Naomi (née Josling; 1915–1987), a maths teacher, and David Benjamin Corbyn (1915–1986), an electrical engineer and expert in power rectifiers. His parents were peace campaigners who met at a committee meeting in support of the Spanish republic at Conway Hall during the Spanish Civil War.[5][6][7] 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"),[8] converting it into a family home.[4]

Corbyn was educated at Castle House Preparatory School, an independent school near Newport, Shropshire, before attending Adams' Grammar School as a day student.[9][10] While still at school he became active in The Wrekin constituency Young Socialists, his local Labour Party and the League Against Cruel Sports.[10] He achieved two A-Levels with "E" grades before leaving school aged 18.[11] After school,[12] Corbyn worked briefly as a reporter for local newspaper, the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser[13] and spent two years doing Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica before becoming a full-time official for the National Union of Public Employees and Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, while briefly pursuing a degree in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic, which he left after his first year without completing his undergraduate studies.[9][14][15]

Corbyn worked as an official of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, was appointed a member of a district health authority and in 1974 was elected to Haringey Council, representing Harringay Ward as councillor until 1983.[5][16] Corbyn worked on Tony Benn's unsuccessful deputy leadership campaign in 1981 and was elected secretary of Islington Borough's Labour Group.

Parliamentary career

Corbyn was selected as the Labour Party candidate for his local seat, Islington North, in 1982.[15] 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.[17]

At the 1983 general election he was elected Member of Parliament for Islington North[15] and immediately joined the Socialist Campaign Group.[18] He sat on the Parliamentary London Regional Select Committee from 1983 to 1987. Shortly after being elected to parliament he began writing a weekly column for the Morning Star,[19] which he continues to the present day.[20] He sat on the Social Security Select Committee from 1992 to 1997, the London Regional Select Committee for a second time from 2009 to 2010, and the Justice Select Committee from 2010 to 2015.[21]

Corbyn at the No More War event at Parliament Square in August 2014

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[22]) 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".[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] He was the most rebellious Labour MP in the 1997–2001 Parliament,[26] the 2001–2005 Parliament[27] and the 2005–2010 Parliament,[28] defying the whip 428 times while Labour was in power.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31] He was elected chair of the coalition in succession to Andrew Murray in September 2011, but resigned in September 2015.[32]

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.[15] 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.[33]

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.[34]

Expenses

During the 2009 expenses scandal, Corbyn was revealed to have submitted the smallest amount in expenses of any British MP.[35][36] In 2010 he claimed the lowest sum of all 650 MPs. In an interview with The Islington Gazette 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."[36] Corbyn rents his constituency office from the Ethical Property Company.[37]

Activism

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.[38][39][40][41][42] 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.[43][44]

Corbyn was a well-known campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, serving on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement,[45] and was arrested in 1984 while demonstrating outside South Africa House.[46]

Leadership of the Labour Party

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".[47] The other candidates were Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham and Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall.[48][49]

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.[50] There was speculation the rule change would lead to Corbyn being elected by registered supporters without majority support from ordinary members.[51] 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.[52] 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 (Trade Union) supporters.[51][53] Corbyn's 40.5% majority was larger than that attained by Tony Blair in 1994.[54][55] With more than 250,000 participants voting for him, Corbyn won "the largest mandate ever won by a Party Leader" in the UK, even though he had the lowest number of nominations from fellow MPs of any Labour Party Leader.[56]

Growth in the Labour Party

During and after Corbyn's leadership election, there has been 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".[57] Momentum, an organisation for supporters of Jeremy Corbyn inside and outside the Labour party set up shortly after his leadership election, is thought to have around 60,000 members.[58]

Despite Corbyn's success in increasing the membership of the party, so far there has not been a similar rise in opinion polls of the wider electorate, with Labour support continuing to lag well behind that of the Conservatives.[59][60] 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.[61][62]

Leader of the Opposition

After being elected leader on 12 September 2015, Corbyn became Leader of the Official Opposition.[63][64] On 14 September 2015, his appointment to the Privy Council was announced.[1][65][66][67] 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.[68] 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.[69] He delivered his first Labour Annual Conference address as leader on 29 September 2015.[70] As Leader of the Opposition he was made a member of the Privy Council on 11 November 2015.[71]

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.[72]

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.[73] 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".[74][75]

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 IS.[76] 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".[77] 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."[76] 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.[78] 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.[79][80][81]

January 2016 cabinet reshuffle

There was widespread speculation following the vote that Corbyn would reshuffle his Cabinet to remove Hilary Benn, but Corbyn's January reshuffle retained Benn in the same position, though Emily Thornberry, an opponent of nuclear weapons and British involvement in Syria, replaced Maria Eagle as Defence Secretary. Eagle was in turn moved to Shadow Culture Secretary to replace Michael Dugher.[82] 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.[83]

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,[84] supported a higher rate of income tax for the wealthiest in society,[85] and his shadow chancellor proposed the introduction of a £10 per hour living wage.[86] He advocates recouping losses from tax avoidance and evasion by investing £1 billion in HMRC.[87] Professor Richard Murphy, regarded as an influence on Corbyn's economic ideas, said that "spending up to £300 million on [HMRC] staff could raise £8 billion extra."[88]

Corbyn would reduce the £93 billion that companies receive in tax relief according to Kevin Farnsworth, a senior lecturer in Social Policy at York University.[89][90][91] 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.[90] He described year-on-year corporation tax cuts for companies with profits over £300,000[92] by British Governments as a "race to the bottom".[93] In 1990, Corbyn participated in the resistance movement against the Community Charge or Poll Tax.[46]

Jeremy Corbyn opposes austerity, and has advocated an economic strategy based on investing-to-grow as opposed to making spending cuts. Under his leadership of the Labour Party, an Economic Advisory Committee was formed, consisting of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis, and others, to help shape Labour's anti-austerity economic policies.[94] During the 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".[95] Its aim, to turn the UK into a high-skill, high-tech economy and build more council houses to lower long-term housing benefit costs, would be achieved by the Bank issuing bonds for a State-owned "National Investment Bank".[96] Murphy, speaking on behalf of Corbyn, said that money printing would only be used in lieu of quantitative easing.[97] Corbyn’s proposals would be in contravention of Article 123 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty which prevents central banks from printing money to finance government spending.[98]

Welfare and health

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

In 2013, Corbyn co-signed a letter to The Guardian newspaper which indicated his support for the People's Assembly Against Austerity.[99] He was a prominent sponsor of the "March for Homes".[100]

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.[95][101]

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.[102] 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.[103]

Corbyn has said that the National Health Service (NHS) should be "completely publicly run and publicly accountable"[104] and is a supporter of the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015.[105] Corbyn is opposed to the Private Finance Initiative, arguing that the NHS will have to repay "six times the original investment in them".[84] In 2010, he stated on Twitter that he believed homeopathy could work for some people[106] and signed a parliamentary motion introduced by the Conservative MP David Tredinnick calling on the Government to consider the experiences of other countries such as India, which backs homeopathy treatment, when formulating health policy.[107]

Education

Corbyn envisions the establishment of a "National Education Service", on a similar model to that of the existing National Health Service. He advocates a return to local authority over state-funded academies and free schools, and an end to the charitable status of public schools.[95] Corbyn has campaigned strongly against tuition fees in England, and supports an increase in corporation tax to fund public services such as free higher education. He advocates the restoration of maintenance grants, which were replaced with loans by the UK's Conservative Government in 2015.[108][109][110] Corbyn is also in favour of an organised "National Creative Apprenticeship Service" for Arts-based further education.[111]

Trade unions

Corbyn is in favour of repealing a government proposed Trade Union bill[112] which would require higher strike voting thresholds, place restrictions on strikes in key areas such as transport, and prevent unions from charging members a political levy unless they specifically agree (currently members can be charged unless they opt out).[113] He would also repeal legislation that bans workers from secondary strikes, which are strikes from workers in support of a strike initiated by workers in a different organisation.[114]

LGBT rights

A pioneer of LGBT equality, Corbyn championed such causes as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), civil partnerships and same-sex marriage,[115] and support for the Equality Bill.[116] He was the only Labour MP to vote in favour of a Liberal Democrat amendment to outlaw discrimination based on sexuality in 1998, before the ratification of the Equality Act 2006.[117] Corbyn voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which ultimately legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[118] He has also threatened "economic and diplomatic consequences" on those countries not supporting LGBT rights.[115] Corbyn supported the appointment of Michael Cashman as Labour's specialist LGBT rights international envoy in 2014.[116]

European Union

In the 1975 European Union referendum put forward by the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, Corbyn opposed Britain's membership of the European Union (EU).[119] In July 2015, Corbyn said that if Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated away workers' rights and environmental protection as part of his renegotiation of Britain's membership of the European Union (EU), he would not rule out advocating for a British exit in a proposed referendum on EU membership,[120] and has expressed that he is in favour of leaving the EU if it becomes a "totally brutal organisation". Pro-European Labour MPs and campaigners already fear Corbyn's allegedly lukewarm attitude towards the EU may convince Labour voters towards withdrawal.[119] However, 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.[121] 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.[104]

Energy and transport

Corbyn speaking at a Liverpool rally in August 2015

Corbyn has been a consistent supporter of renationalising public utilities, such as the now-privatised British Rail and energy companies back into public ownership.[122][123]

Analyses cited by The Guardian and Financial Times newspapers among others, of the renationalisation policies advocated by Corbyn, indicate a figure of at least £124 billion would be needed to purchase controlling shares in the "Big Six" national energy providers plus the National Grid.[124] This plan would have to comply with European Union competition law, though several European countries currently have state-owned railway systems compliant with EU legislation.[125] However future EU proposals, and in particular the fourth railway package, indicate potential forthcoming EU legislation requiring the "opening up" of passenger railway markets;[126] thus energy and transportation markets, even if renationalised, would have to give a "right of competition" among other EU-domiciled companies.[127][128]

In August 2015, Corbyn said he would consider introducing women-only carriages for public transport (a policy currently enforced in Japan), as well as a 24-hour hotline for women to report cases of harassment.[129] He said that although his aim was to "make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to the mode of transport itself", he would consult women on whether separate carriages would be welcome, after the idea was suggested to him.[129] Conservative Women's Minister Nicky Morgan said she was "uncomfortable with the idea", it sounding to her like "segregation".[130]

Nationalism and devolution

Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of a United Ireland and self-described "anti-imperialist campaigner" for the region.[131] He controversially invited Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to London in 1984, from which the Party Leader Neil Kinnock "did everything in his power" to disassociate himself.[131] A second meeting in 1996 was cancelled following pressure from the Labour Party.[132][133] Corbyn responded by saying "dialogue with all parties remains essential if the peace process is to continue".[134] He has been strongly criticised by Labour and Conservative MPs for holding meetings with former members of the PIRA in the Palace of Westminster, to discuss topics such as conditions in Northern Irish prisons and the PIRA ceasefire.[135][136] Corbyn voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, saying that it strengthened the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and he opposed it as he wished to see a united Ireland.[137] In an interview on BBC Radio Ulster in August 2015, Corbyn stressed his opposition to "all bombing" and welcomed the ceasefire and peace process, although he did not express an opinion about the actions of the IRA specifically.[138][139]

When asked by Glasgow's Herald newspaper if he would describe himself as a British Unionist, Corbyn replied "No, I would describe myself as a Socialist. I would prefer the UK to stay together, yes, but I recognise the right of people to take the decision on their own autonomy and independence". He criticised the decision by Scottish Labour to work with Scottish Conservatives in the Better Together campaign, and said that he had not actively participated in the 2014 campaign for an independent Scotland. Corbyn stated his belief that economic inequality exists across the UK, and that Labour should unite people on the basis of a "radical economic strategy".[140]

Corbyn believes the royal ceremony for the State Opening of Parliament[141] should be abolished, saying, to the Beaver County Times in 1998 that: "It's absolutely ridiculous, this 18th-century performance, the horses and the knights and everybody else turning up for The Queen to read a speech she's never even read before, let alone written".[142] Corbyn's personal preference is for Britain to become a republic, but said that given the Royal Family's popularity, "it's not a battle that I am fighting".[45][143] In 1991, Corbyn seconded the Commonwealth of Britain Bill brought forward by Tony Benn calling for the transformation of the United Kingdom ideally into a "democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of Britain", with an elected president, devolution, abolition of the House of Lords as it currently exists, and equality of representation by men and women in parliament.[144]

Foreign affairs and defence

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.[145] However, opposing violence and war has been "the whole purpose of his life".[146] He prominently opposed war in Iraq and Afghanistan, military strikes against Assad's Syria, and military action against ISIS, and served as the chair of the Stop The War Coalition.[147] 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."[147][148]

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.[149] 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.[150] 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.[151][152][153]

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".[154] 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".[154][155] 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,[156] Anne Applebaum in The Sunday Times,[157] Ben Judah in The Independent,[158] and Roger Boyes in The Times.[159] Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Edward Lucas said that Corbyn's "anti-imperialist sentiments did not stretch to understanding countries such as Ukraine".[160] 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".[161]

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,[162] 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".[163]

Corbyn speaking for Global Justice Now in February 2015

Corbyn opposes the replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system, and supports the creation of a Defence Diversification Agency to assist the transfer of jobs and skills to the civilian sector.[164][165]

In his leadership election campaign, Corbyn suggested that the 11,000 jobs supported by Trident could be replaced by "socially productive" jobs in renewable energy, railways and housing.[166] Corbyn has hinted he might allow party members who support Trident replacement to back it in a free vote,[167] but said defence chiefs would be under instructions not to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances if he was Prime Minister.[168] In January 2016, Corbyn suggested a compromise of having Trident submarines without nuclear weapons.[169]

Environment and animal rights

Corbyn has been a strong advocate for environmentalism. During his leadership bid in 2015, he published a "Protecting Our Planet Manifesto", detailing plans for a "Green Investment Bank" that would invest in green technologies such as renewable energy. He advocates a ban on hydraulic fracking, a phasing out of fossil fuel extraction, and investment in public transport to improve air quality. Corbyn is also against the building of new nuclear power stations.[170][171]

Corbyn has been a long-time campaigner on animal rights issues. He was one of the first signatories to Tony Banks' "Pigeon Bombs" Early Day Motion, and, in 2015, he signed up to another Motion calling for a ban on the importation of foie gras into the UK as well as sponsoring a Motion opposing the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.[172][173][174] He has also sponsored two Early Day Motions relating to the McLibel case.[175]

Personal life

In 1974, Corbyn married Jane Chapman, a fellow Labour Councillor for Haringey and now a professor at the University of Lincoln;[15] they divorced in 1979.[176] In 1987, Corbyn married Chilean-born Claudia Bracchitta, granddaughter of Ricardo Bracchitta (Cónsul General de España en Santiago) and niece of Dr Óscar Soto Guzman,[177] 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.[14][178] His son subsequently attended Queen Elizabeth's School, which was his wife's first choice.[179] In 2013, Corbyn married his long-term domestic partner Laura Álvarez,[180] a Mexican émigrée who runs a fair-trade coffee import business.[181]

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 described his concerns about the environment as a sort of "spiritualism".[182] 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".[14] 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".[15][183][184]

Corbyn is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling.[185][186] He enjoys reading and writing,[184] and speaks fluent Spanish.[187] 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.[188] 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.[189]

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."[190][191] 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".[192] 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.[193][194]

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".[195]

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Gilbert, W Stephen, Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero. London: Eyeware Publishing Ltd (Squint Books series), 2015. ISBN 978-1-908998-89-7.
  • Nigel Cawthorne, Jeremy Corbyn: Leading from the Left. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015 ISBN 978-1516971893

External links

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