Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn

Official portrait, 2020
Leader of the Opposition
In office
12 September 2015 – 4 April 2020
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Shadow First SecretaryAngela Eagle
Emily Thornberry
Preceded byHarriet Harman
Succeeded bySir Keir Starmer
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
12 September 2015 – 4 April 2020
DeputyTom Watson
ChairmanTom Watson
Ian Lavery
Preceded byEd Miliband
Succeeded bySir Keir Starmer
Chair of the Stop the War Coalition
In office
14 June 2011 – 12 September 2015
PresidentTony Benn (2011–2014)
Preceded byAndrew Murray
Succeeded byAndrew Murray
Member of Parliament
for Islington North
Assumed office
9 June 1983
Preceded byMichael O'Halloran
Majority26,188 (48.7%)
Personal details
Jeremy Bernard Corbyn

(1949-05-26) 26 May 1949 (age 75)
Chippenham, England, UK
Political partyLabour[a]
Socialist Campaign Group (1983–2015; since 2020)
Jane Chapman
(m. 1974; div. 1979)

Claudia Bracchitta
(m. 1987; div. 1999)

Laura Álvarez (m. 2013)
Children3 sons
ResidenceFinsbury Park, North London, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of North London
WebsiteOfficial website
a. ^ Membership suspended: 29 October 2020 – 17 November 2020
Whip suspended since 29 October 2020

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (born 26 May 1949) is a British politician. He was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 2015 to 2020.[1] He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983. He was elected Leader of the Labour Party in 2015.[2] Corbyn calls himself a democratic socialist.[3]

Corbyn was born in Chippenham in Wiltshire.[4] Before becoming a politician, he worked as a representative for many trade unions. He was elected to Haringey Council in 1974.[5] He was later secretary of the Islington Constituency Labour Party (CLP).[1] He entered the House of Commons as an MP.[1]

Corbyn won many awards for his work as an international human rights activist.[6] As an MP, he is known for his activism and for voting against the Labour whip when the party was in government under New Labour leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.[7] Corbyn works in support of the anti-austerity movement and stopping austerity cuts to public sector and welfare funding made since 2010.[6]

During his career, he has worked to stop big businesses and very rich people avoiding tax.[8] He has been an anti-war and anti-nuclear activist.[8] Corbyn supports a foreign policy of military non-interventionism and a unilateral policy of nuclear disarmament. This means he wants all countries to stop building nuclear weapons.[8] Corbyn is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).[8] He was the national chair of the Stop the War Coalition from June 2011 until September 2015.[9]

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.[10] Although many people did not believe he would win,[11][12] he won enough votes to become the lead candidate. He won many votes from trade unions who supported the Labour Party, as well as left wing activists.[10][13] He was elected Leader of the Labour Party on 12 September 2015 after winning 59.5% of the votes in the first round of the ballot.[14]

In June 2016, after the events of the "leave" vote in the EU referendum, Labour MPs passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn. It passed by 172 votes to 40 following the resignation of around two-thirds of Corbyn's Shadow cabinet.[15] He then faced a second leadership contest, against Angela Eagle and Owen Smith. However, in July 2016, Eagle dropped out of the race leaving Smith and Corbyn as the only candidates.[16] On 24 September 2016, Corbyn won the leadership contest against Smith with an increased majority of 61.8%.[17]

After the 2017 general election was announced, Corbyn said he was ready to offer a "real alternative" to the Conservative government.[18] In the election, the Labour Party gained 32 seats, but the Conservatives remained the largest Party.

In 2019, Corbyn created a plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which involved creating a temporary caretaker government and then campaigning for a "public vote on the terms of leaving the European Union, including an option to Remain".[19][20] He has publicly criticized antisemitism within the Labour Party, however many believe than Corbyn is responsible for some antisemitic attacks within the party. In the 2019 general election, Labour suffered its worst defeat since 1935, lowering its seats held to just over 200. Corbyn said that he would not lead Labour into the next election, causing a leadership contest, where Sir Keir Starmer won the contest and replaced Corbyn on 4 April 2020.[21]

Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party on 29 October 2020 after he said that he would not accept what the Equality and Human Rights Commission found about antisemitism.[22] He was given party membership again a month later, however his party whip remains suspended until February 2021.[23]

Early life[change | change source]

Corbyn was born at Chippenham Cottage Hospital in Chippenham, Wiltshire.[24][25] He was raised in Kington St Michael in Wiltshire.[4] The youngest of four sons, he is the brother of Piers Corbyn.[26] His mother, Naomi Josling, was a math teacher.[27] His father, David Benjamin Corbyn was an electrical engineer.[27] His parents were peace activists.[27] When Corbyn was seven, the family moved to Pave Lane in Shropshire, where his father bought Yew Tree Manor (renamed Yew Tree Guesthouse),[28] turning it into a family home.[4]

Corbyn studied at the Castle House Preparatory School near Newport, Shropshire.[29] He then went to Adams' Grammar School.[29] In school, Corbyn said that he received bad grades and his teacher told him that he was never going to make anything of himself.[30] Corbyn worked as a reporter for a short time for local newspaper, the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser.[31] He went to the University of North London for a year before dropping out without an educational degree.[29]

Early career[change | change source]

At around the age of 19, Corbyn spent two years volunteering in Jamaica as a geography teacher.[32]

Corbyn worked as an union official of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers.[33] He became a member of a district health authority in the early years of the 1970s.[34] In 1974, he was elected to Haringey Council, representing Harringay as councillor until 1983.[35] Corbyn worked on Tony Benn's deputy leadership campaign in 1981.[35]

Parliamentary career, 1983–present[change | change source]

Corbyn was chosen as the Labour Party candidate for his local seat in Islington North in 1982. 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.[36]

Corbyn being interviewed outside the Palace of Westminster, September 2013

In 1983, he was elected Member of Parliament for Islington North. After winning, he joined the Socialist Campaign Group.[37] He sat on the Parliamentary London Regional Select Committee from 1983 to 1987. 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.[38]

Corbyn has won re-elections as Member of Parliament for Islington North seven times. In the 2015 election, when he won 60.24% of the votes cast and a majority of 21,194.[39] During his career, he voted against the whip 428 times while Labour was in power.[40]

In 1990, Corbyn almost went to jail for not paying his taxes as protest to a new tax system in Scotland.[41]

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. He helped organise the February anti-Iraq War protest which was claimed to be the largest such protest in British political history.[42] 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.[43] He was elected chair of the coalition in succession to Andrew Murray in September 2011, but resigned in September 2015.[44]

Corbyn has always opposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and is a long-time supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). 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.[45]

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 supported the rights for the Chagossians. He is known for his Venezuelan solidarity[disambiguation needed] activism.[46]

Leadership of the Labour Party, 2015–2020[change | change source]

Leadership election[change | change source]

Corbyn in February 2015

Following the Labour Party's defeat at the general election on 7 May 2015, Ed Miliband resigned as its party leader. His resignation caused the party to have a leadership election.[47]

On 2 June, it was reported in media sources that Corbyn was thinking of applying to be a candidate. The next day, Corbyn announced to his local newspaper, The Islington Tribune, that he would become a candidate in the election.[5] Before he could become a candidate he had to secure at least 35 nominations from MPs. In the end he got 36.[48] Some of the MPs who nominated him didn't think he would win and only nominated him to have a 'broader debate'.[49]

Some, including former foreign secretary Margaret Becket, told journalists they regretted the decision. When he was accepted as a candidate Corbyn said: "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".[50] He would run against candidates Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall.[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 said that Corbyn would have won in the first round with 51% of votes.[53][54] Corbyn's 40.5% majority was larger than that won by Tony Blair in 1994.[55][56]

Leader of the Opposition[change | change source]

Corbyn at a political rally at Trafalgar Square, February 2016

After being elected leader on 12 September 2015, Corbyn became Leader of the Official Opposition.[57] On 14 September 2015, his seat in the Privy Council was announced.[1][58][59][60] During his time as leader, Corbyn wanted to stop the "theatrical" nature of the House of Commons. His first months as leader was called as "a good start" and a "long overdue" change by The Guardian.[61] He made his first annual[disambiguation needed] address as leader on 29 September 2015.[62] As Leader of the Opposition, he was made a member of the Privy Council on 11 November 2015.[63] The phrase, "Corbynmania", is used for the large amount of support given by his supporters.[64]

On 16 June 2016, MP Jo Cox was assassinated after being stabbed multiple times by far-right supporter Thomas Mair.[65] In the aftermath of the assassination, Corbyn described Cox as someone who was "dedicated to getting us to live up to our promises to support the developing world and strengthen human rights".[66]

In June 2017, Corbyn made an appearance at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival, where he addressed the crowd. The crowd chanted "Oh, Jeremy Corbyn" and sang to the tune of "Seven Nation Army", a song by The White Stripes.[67] Corbyn talked about the importance of young people going out and vote.[67]

Military intervention in Syria[change | change source]

After members of ISIS carried out terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Corbyn said that the only way to deal with the threat by ISIS would be to reach a political settlement and ending the Syrian Civil War.[68] Corbyn voted against military power and airstrikes on ISIS.[69]

EU referendum results and cabinet resignations[change | change source]

Corbyn meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in London, April 2016

In June 2016, Corbyn said he supported the United Kingdom staying in the European Union.[70] After the United Kingdom voted on leaving the European Union, many Labour leaders wanted Corbyn to resign.[71]

After the referendum, many members of Corbyn's Shadow cabinet resigned because they did not like Corbyn's leadership.[15] Hilary Benn called Corbyn to tell him that he had "lost confidence" in his leadership.[72] Corbyn later asked for his resignation from the Shadow Cabinet on 26 June. Heidi Alexander resigned from the Shadow Cabinet hours later, followed by Gloria de Piero, Ian Murray,[73][74] Lilian Greenwood, Lucy Powell, Kerry McCarthy, Seema Malhotra, Vernon Coaker, Charlie Falconer, and Chris Bryant.[75] 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 not a good time for a "rebellion".[76] By mid-afternoon 27 June 2016, 23 of the 31 shadow cabinet members had resigned their roles as did seven parliamentary private secretaries.[76]

Leadership crisis[change | change source]

Owen Smith ran against Corbyn for the Leadership of the Labour Party. Smith lost the race to Corbyn with 38% of the vote to Corbyn's 62%.[17]

On 28 June 2016, he lost the vote of confidence by Labour Party MPs by 172–40.[15] He said with a statement that the motion had no "constitutional legitimacy" and that he intended to continue as the elected leader.

A YouGov poll of Labour party members found that about 50% expected to support Corbyn if a leadership ballot was called.[77] London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who did not take a side in the dispute, said "When Labour splits, when we're divided, we lose elections".[78] The division between Corbyn and the Labour parliamentary party continued.[79]

On 11 July 2016, Angela Eagle announced her candidacy to run against Corbyn in the upcoming 2016 Labour Party leadership election.[80] On 13 July former shadow minister Owen Smith also announced his leadership challenge.[16] On the 19 July, Eagle quit the race after Smith got 90 nominations to her 70.[81] Eagle said she resigned 'in the best interests of the party.'[81] This was because having two anti Corbyn candidates in the race could split the vote and give him a better chance of winning.[82]

On 24 September 2016, following the leadership contest, Corbyn was re-elected as the leader of the party again with an increased majority of 61.8%.[17]

Response to the Chilcot report[change | change source]

The Chilcot report of the Iraq Inquiry was issued on 6 July 2016. It criticised the former Labour PM Tony Blair for joining the United States in the war against Iraq. Corbyn was against the war in Iraq.[83] In response, Corbyn apologised to the people of Iraq, families of British soldiers who died and to the British people.[84]

Donald Trump[change | change source]

Corbyn at a Labour Party meeting in Liverpool, September 2016

After the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 United States presidential elections, Corbyn said that he believes that Trump is not solving problems, but dividing the United States.[85] Corbyn also said he supports the idea for Trump to be banned from visiting the United Kingdom over his executive order on banning visitors from certain majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.[86]

In June 2019, Corbyn refused an invitation to attend a state banquet for Donald Trump, hosted by Queen Elizabeth II during the president's June visit to the United Kingdom.[87] Corbyn then attended a London protest outside Trump and May's joint press conference[88][89] and requested a meeting with Trump to talk about issues such as the "climate emergency, threats to peace and the refugee crisis".[90] Trump rejected the request, saying that Corbyn was a "negative force".[90]

Article 50[change | change source]

In January 2017, Corbyn announced that he would support a three-line plan to force Labour MPs in support of triggering Article 50, which would start the removal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.[91] In response, many Labour members said they would vote against the bill.[92] Tulip Siddiq, the shadow minister for early years, and Jo Stevens, the Shadow Welsh Secretary resigned in protest.[91][92] On 1 February, forty seven Labour MPs went against Corbyn's plan on the second reading of the bill.[93]

May 2017 local elections[change | change source]

Corbyn speaking at the Labour Party 2017 General Election launch, May 2017

At the 2017 local elections in May, Labour under Corbyn lost almost 400 councillors and control of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire county council.[94] The BBC's Projected National Vote Share was 38% for the Conservatives, 27% for Labour, 18% for the Liberal Democrats and 5% for UKIP, with others on around 12%.[95]

2017 general election[change | change source]

Corbyn said he supported Prime Minister Theresa May's idea for an early general election while awaiting parliamentary approval.[96] He said he would urge his party to support the government's move in the parliamentary vote announced for on 19 April. A ​23 majority of MPs is necessary for a general election to be called before 2020.[97]

Many people supported Corbyn to become Prime Minister such as United States senator Bernie Sanders, who Corbyn supported when Sanders ran for President of the United States.[98]

Official portrait of Jeremy Corbyn, June 2017

In the snap general election, Labour under Corbyn gained 32 seats and increased its share of the popular vote to 40%, though the Conservative Party remained in government.[99]

After the 2017 general election[change | change source]

Corbyn with Michael Eavis at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival

After the 2017 election, a poll put Labour on 45% with the Conservatives on 39%, the first poll to show Labour ahead with Corbyn as leader.[99] 4% more voters approve of Corbyn than disapprove.[100] Corbyn announced that the party was being placed on "permanent campaign mode",[101] hoping for another general election to be called as soon as fall 2017.[102] He began a number of rallies in important seats, including Hastings and Rye, Southampton Itchen and Bournemouth West.[103]

After Theresa May's Brexit proposal failed in the House of Commons on 15 January 2019, Corbyn filled a motion of no confidence towards the May ministry.[104] The motion failed in a 325 to 306 vote.[105]

In March 2019, Corbyn was assaulted by a Brexit supporter outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London. His attacker was sentenced to 28 days in jail.[106] In March 2019, Corbyn said that he could vote leave in a second referendum, depending on the Brexit deal on offer.[107]

At the end of Theresa May's time as Prime Minister, she had a small lead over Corbyn in the best Prime Minister polling question.[108] However, following the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in July 2019, he gained double-digit leads over Corbyn on this question,[108] although he was seen to be "more in touch" with ordinary people than Johnson.[109]

June 2017 Shadow Cabinet[change | change source]

A year after most of his Shadow Cabinet resigned, Corbyn removed three Shadow Cabinet members and a fourth resigned.[94] This was after they went against the Labour Party's orders to not vote on the motion aimed at keeping the United Kingdom in the European Union single market.[94]

Corbyn at a political event in London, April 2018

Antisemitism accusations[change | change source]

In March 2018, it was revealed that Labour Party members, including Corbyn, some of his office staff and MPs belonged to a secret Facebook group where antisemitic comments were freely made.[110] He left the group after becoming Labour leader in 2015.[111]

According to the Huffington Post he was enrolled by someone else in 2014 and had only made a small number of posts.[112]

Later in March 2018, a spokesman for the Labour leader admitted Corbyn had posted a comment on Facebook in 2012 questioning the removal of an[113] allegedly antisemitic mural in London.[114] This became controversial with Corbyn releasing a statement that said: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and antisemitic,” he said. “The defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of antisemitism in any form. That is a view I’ve always held.”.[115]

In February 2019, seven MPs resigned from the Labour Party to form an Independent group because of Corbyn's handling of Brexit and of allegations of antisemitism.[116]

2019 general election and resignation[change | change source]

Corbyn at a Labour 2019 election campaign in Nottingham, December 2019

On 29 October 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the next general election would be held on 12 December 2019.[117] The reason was so that Conservatives could win a majority in parliament to pass a Brexit bill.[117] Labour were left with just over 200 seats, their worst result since 1935.[118] However, the party's share of the vote was higher than in 2015 and 2010.[119] Conservatives won seats in England and Wales that were traditionally Labour seats, in a move the British media called: "a realignment of UK politics".[118]

After the Labour Party's had massive losses in the election, Corbyn stated that he plans to step down following a period of reflection causing a leadership contest.[120] Corbyn said that he had "pride in the manifesto" that Labour put forward for the election and blamed the defeat on Brexit.[121]

On 3 April 2020, in a final message to Labour Party members while leader of the party, Corbyn said, "I can assure you my voice will not be stilled. I’ll be out there campaigning for socialism, peace and justice, and I feel sure we’ll be doing that together." He also claimed that Labour in the last five years under his leadership had "changed the agenda on austerity and how the economy is run".[122][123]

On 4 April 2020, Sir Keir Starmer replaced Corbyn as Opposition Leader and Labour Party Leader.[124]

After a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Labour Party suspended Corbyn in October 2020. They did this because he said that he would not accept what the report had found.[22] On 17 November 2020, Corbyn was given a formal warning and was given party membership again.[125] Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has not yet give Corbyn party-related responsibilites again.[126] On 26 November, Corbyn's lawyers pushed for legal action against the Labour Party for suspending Corbyn's party whip. Corbyn's claim is that he and Starmer had agreed to a deal to readmit him to the party.[23] His party duties will be suspended at least until February 2021 until an investigation into Corbyn's anti-Semitism accusations can finish.[23]

Post-leadership activities[change | change source]

On 13 December 2020, Corbyn announced that he would be creating the Project for Peace and Justice the following month.[127] It would focus on environmentalism, international peace, poverty, social inequality and corporation power.[128] Corbyn launched the Project on 17 January 2021.[129][130]

On 18 February 2022, in the week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Corbyn, along with 11 other MPs, cosigned a statement from the Stop the War Coalition that would not support a war in Ukraine.[131][132] After the invasion began, many MPs and Labour officials wanted Corbyn and others who signed the statement to remove their names from it.[131][132] Corbyn and fellow former Labour independent MP Claudia Webbe did not withdraw their signatures from the statement.[133]

In August 2023, Corbyn said that he was thinking about running for Mayor of London as an independent.[134] He had been included as a named candidate on some polls in late 2023.[135]

Personal life[change | change source]

In 1974, Corbyn married Jane Chapman.[136] They divorced in 1979.[137] In 1987, Corbyn married Chilean-born Claudia Bracchitta.[138] They had three sons. They divorced in 1999. Corbyn said in June 2015 that he continues to "get on very well" with his former wife.[139] In 2013, Corbyn married Laura Álvarez.[140] He lives in Finsbury Park in London.[141]

In an interview by The Huffington Post in December 2015, Corbyn did not want to say what his religion was, saying that it is a "private thing", while saying that he was not an atheist.[142]

Cultural impact[change | change source]

In January 2016 it was announced that a satirical musical based on Corbyn's life 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".[143]

Political views[change | change source]

Corbyn speaking at anti-war event, April 2013

Corbyn has been against Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and supported a higher rate of income tax for the richest in society.[144] He wants to stop tax evasion by adding £1 billion in HM Revenue and Customs.[145]

Corbyn has said that the National Health Service (NHS) should be "completely publicly run and publicly accountable".[146] He is a supporter of the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015.[147] Corbyn does not support the Private Finance Initiative.[148]

Corbyn did not support sending British troops to retake the Falkland Islands.[149] He called it a "nauseating waste of lives and money".[150]

Corbyn has supported same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.[151] Corbyn voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, that allowed same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[152] He has been a longtime environmentalist and does not support hydraulic fracturing.[153][154] Corbyn is a supporter of animal rights.[155] He also supports re-nationalisation of the UK's train system, meaning they will be owned and run by the government and not by businesses.[156]

More reading[change | change source]

  • Gilbert, W Stephen (2015). Jeremy Corbyn: Accidental Hero. ISBN 978-1-908998-89-7.
  • Cawthorne, Nigel (2015). Jeremy Corbyn: Leading from the Left. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-5169-7189-3.

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