Jeremy Corbyn (Jeremy Bernard Corbyn) was born on 26 May 1949. His election as Labour leader in September 2015, at the age of 66, was one of the biggest upsets in British political history.
A veteran socialist, who had spent 30 years on the back benches championing controversial causes and voting with his conscience, he had been persuaded to stand only because none of his friends on the Labour left had wanted to do it.
“Well, Diane [Abbott] and John [McDonnell) have done it before, so it was my turn,” he told the Guardian.
He began the contest as a 200-1 outsider after scraping on to the ballot paper at the last minute, thanks to charity nominations from Labour MPs who had wanted a token left-winger to “broaden the debate”. No-one, least of all himself, had expected him to win.
But something about the bearded, unassuming Islington North MP struck a chord with Labour members in a way that his three younger, more polished – and more obviously careerist – rivals did not.
He seemed able to inspire people who had lost faith in Labour during the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown years and bring hope to young activists fired up by his anti-austerity message.
His entry into the contest prompted a surge in people – many to the left of the existing Labour membership – joining the party or paying £3 to become registered supporters, taking advantage of new leadership contest rules.
His election as leader, by a thumping majority, heralded a remarkable revival in fortunes for a brand of left-wing Labour politics that looked to have been consigned to the dustbin of history by Tony Blair.
It also prompted a battle for the soul of the Labour Party between grassroots members who adored Mr Corbyn – and who rallied behind him through a new campaign group, Momentum – and many of the party’s MPs, who regarded him as an electoral liability not up to the job of leading an effective opposition.
He has endured fierce criticism from senior party figures and a failed attempt to unseat him through a second leadership election.
But he has refused to cave in and now has a chance to fight a general election on his own terms – making the case for a different kind of government in line with the principles he has held, more or less unchanged, since he first entered politics more than 40 years ago.
Party managers are convinced that the more voters see of Mr Corbyn on the campaign trial – rather than reading what they regard as biased and unfair portrayals of him in the media – the more they will warm to him.
They believe his policies, such as renationalising the railways and ending zero hours contracts, are popular with the voting public and the man himself will come across as decent and principled in contrast to his Conservative rivals, although they admit they have a Herculean task on their hands to close the gap before polling day.
- Jeremy Bernard Corbyn had an impeccable middle-class upbringing.
- He spent his early years in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Kington St Michael.
- When he was seven, the family moved to a seven-bedroom manor house in the hamlet of Pave Lane, in Shropshire.
- The youngest of four boys, he enjoyed an idyllic childhood in what he himself has called a rural “Tory shire”.
Who is Jeremy Corbyn?
Job: MP for Islington North since 1983. Education: Briefly at fee-paying preparatory school before a state primary and then, after passing 11-plus, a grammar school, in Newport, Shropshire. Family: Lives with third wife. Has three sons from earlier marriage. Hobbies: Running, cycling, cricket, jam-making with fruit grown on his allotment and Arsenal football club. His most unusual hobby is an interest in the history and design of manhole covers. He is also a fluent Spanish speaker, who enjoys Latin American literature.
His brother, Piers, now a meteorologist known for denying that climate change is a product of human activity, has described the Corbyn boys as “country bumpkins”.
Mr Corbyn disagrees with his brother on climate change, but they remain close.
They both learned their politics at the family dinner table, where left-wing causes and social justice were frequent topics of debate.
Their maths teacher mother, Naomi, and electrical engineer father, David, were peace campaigners who met at a London rally for supporters of Spain’s Republicans in the fight against Gen Franco’s fascists.
Piers, who would go on to be a well-known squatters leader in 1960s London, was even further to the left than Jeremy.
Both boys joined the local Wrekin Labour Party and the Young Socialists while still at school.
Mr Corbyn had begun his education at the fee-paying preparatory school Castle House, in Newport, Shropshire, before moving into the state sector, after passing his 11-plus.
He was one of only two Labour-supporting boys at Adams Grammar School, in Newport, when his class held a mock election in 1964.
Mr Corbyn left Adams with two A-levels, both at grade E, and an enduring hatred of selective education.
He reportedly split up with his second wife, Claudia, after she insisted on sending their son Ben – now a translator and elite player development officer with Premier League football club Watford – to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, in Barnet, instead of an Islington comprehensive.
After leaving school, Mr Corbyn spent two years in Jamaica, with Voluntary Service Overseas, something he has described as an “amazing” experience.
Back in the UK, he threw himself into trade union activism, initially with now long defunct National Union of Tailors and Garment Makers.
He started a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but left after a series of arguments with his tutors over the curriculum.
“He probably knew more than them,” Piers told the Sun.
A successful career as a trade union organiser followed, with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and then the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE).
But his real passion was for Labour Party politics – and in 1974 he was elected to Haringey District Council, in north London.
In the same year he married fellow Labour councillor, Jane Chapman, a university lecturer.
Ms Chapman says she married Mr Corbyn for his “honesty” and “principles” but she soon grew weary of his intense focus on politics.
“Politics became our life. He was out most evenings because when we weren’t at meetings he would go to the Labour headquarters, and do photocopying – in those days you couldn’t print because there were no computers,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
What others say About Jeremy Corbyn
Former Labour MP Chris Mullin, speaking to the BBC’s Panorama in 2015: “Jeremy is a saintly figure of enormous personal integrity. He is a man who lives his life according to his beliefs.”
Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, on the day the general election was called: “Was ever there a more crassly inept politician than Jeremy Corbyn, whose every impulse is to make the wrong call on everything? It’s not excitingly flamboyant red radicalism that has done for Labour, but his sluggish incompetence at the absolute basics of leadership,”
The Morning Star, February 2017: “He has been bullied, betrayed and ridiculed, and yet he carries on with the same grace and care he always shows to others – however objectionable their behaviour and treatment of him might be.”
Former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn (pictured) in June 2016: “He is a good and decent man, but he is not a leader,”
They shared a love of animals, they had a tabby cat called Harold Wilson, and enjoyed camping holidays together in Europe on Mr Corbyn’s motorbike.
But fun was in short supply at home, recalls Ms Chapman, who remains in touch with Mr Corbyn and backed his party leadership bid.
During their five years together he had never once taken her to dinner, she told the Daily Mail, preferring instead to “grab a can of beans and eat it straight from the can” to save time.
In 1987, Mr Corbyn married Claudia Bracchita, a Chilean exile, with whom he had three sons.
The youngest, Tommy, was born while Mr Corbyn was talking to Nupe members elsewhere in the same hospital.
His second son, Sebastian, worked on his leadership campaign and is now shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s chief of staff.
The couple separated in 1999, but remained on good terms.
Mr Corbyn got married for a third time in 2012, to Mexican human rights lawyer and fair trade coffee importer Laura Alvarez, who is two decades his junior.
In the bitter internal warfare that split Labour in the late 1970s and early 80s, Mr Corbyn was firmly on the side of the left.
A Labour man to his fingertips – he was no Militant “entryist” trying to infiltrate the party by stealth – he nevertheless found common cause with former Trotskyists and joined them in their battle to push the party to the left.
He became a disciple of Tony Benn, sharing his mentor’s brand of democratic socialism, with its belief in worker controlled industries and state planning of the economy, as well as Benn’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament and a united Ireland.
Jeremy Corbyn’s causes
Here is just a small selection of the campaigns Jeremy Corbyn has been involved with over the past 50 years.
Nuclear disarmament: Joined CND as a schoolboy in 1966
Irish republicanism: Organised Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams’s visit to the Commons in 1983. Once employed Irish republican dissident Ronan Bennett as a member of staff at Westminster
Miners’ strike: Invited striking miners into Commons gallery in 1985, who were expelled for shouting: “Coal not dole”
Anti-apartheid: Served on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and was arrested in 1984 for protesting outside South Africa House
Palestinian solidarity: A member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and campaigns regularly against the conflict in Gaza
Miscarriages of justice: Worked on behalf of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, who were eventually found to be have been wrongly convicted of IRA bombings in England in the mid-1970s
Animal rights: Joined the League Against Cruel Sports at school, became a vegetarian at 20 after working on a pig farm
Iraq War: Chaired the Stop the War coalition
Gay rights: Spoke out in 1983 on a “no socialism without gay liberation” platform and continued to campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
Mr Corbyn was never seen as a great orator like Tony Benn, or a firebrand like miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, but he worked tirelessly behind the scenes, his trousers stained with purple ink from the copying machines that produced the pamphlets and newspapers that were the lifeblood of the British left in the pre-internet era.
He wrote for the London Labour Briefing newspaper, which helped propel Ken Livingstone to power on the Greater London Council, although he denies reports that he was a member of its editorial board.
He was elected to Parliament in 1983, to represent his home patch of Islington North, a seat he has held ever since and where he has increased his majority from 5,600 to 21,000.
The Bennite faction that Mr Corbyn belonged to was already in retreat, following their leader’s failure to capture the deputy leadership of the party in 1981.
After fighting and losing the 1983 election on arguably the most left-wing manifesto it had ever put before the British public, with its commitment to renationalising the utilities just privatised by the Thatcher government, pulling out of the EU and nuclear disarmament, Labour began the painful process of “modernisation” that led to the birth of New Labour.
And Mr Corbyn would spend the next 32 years on the back benches fighting a rearguard action against his party’s abandonment of the radical policies and values contained in the 1983 manifesto in the name of electability, under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and then Tony Blair.
Jeremy Corbyn in His Own Words
Throughout my political career, I have always stood up for a country that delivers for the many not the few. In this election, Labour is leading a movement to create an economy worthy of the 21st Century, and build a Britain that we can all be proud of.
The Conservatives’ choices in government show that they are the party of privilege and the richest. I’m proud that the Labour Party, founded for and by working people, continues to stand up for working people. When Labour wins elections, it is the people and not the powerful who win. The nurse, the teacher, the small trader, the builder, the office worker, the student, the carer win. We all win.
Britain needs a Labour government that is prepared to fight for people across this country. Our Labour government won’t be scared to take on the powerful, who hoard our country’s wealth for themselves. Britain needs a government that will invest in people in every community to build a better future for every single person.
Politics is about choices. We need a Labour government that will choose the people over the powerful – no more give aways to the super-rich while the rest of us face less money in our pockets and cuts to our NHS, schools, police and all the services we rely upon.
We will put the people first by building one million homes, investing to upgrade our economy and stand firm in the Brexit negotiations to secure full and tariff-free access to European markets.
These policies represent the Labour values that I have always fought for and the values which are in our country’s proudest traditions.
Together, we can build an economy worthy of the 21st Century, and a country for the many, not the few.
On his frugal lifestyle: “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.”
- Jeremy Bernard Corbyn Biography and Profile (Jeremy Corbyn / BBC / Goodreadbiography)