‘He hasn’t changed at all’: Community leaders’ verdict on Jeremy Corbyn in Islington after one year as Labour leader
- Credit: Archant
A year ago, Jeremy Corbyn promised Islington North ‘won’t be forgotten’ after he was elected Labour leader. Twelve months on, James Morris asks community leaders across his constituency whether he has kept his word.
“If an MP runs away from their community, how can they claim to represent or understand people?”
Jeremy Corbyn was speaking to the Gazette after his re-election as Labour leader on Saturday.
It could easily be construed as a dig at David Cameron, who resigned as Witney MP soon after quitting as Prime Minister. Or even Tony Blair, a rival from his own party, who did the same as Sedgefield MP in 2007.
Then again, what else would you expect from a man who has passionately served Islington North since 1983?
Jeremy Corbyn is the most talked about politician in the UK, with a huge workload as leader of the opposition. But community leaders – from teachers to theatre directors – report he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
Even Green Cllr Caroline Russell, the sole opposition member of Labour-controlled Islington Council – and who stood against Mr Corbyn in last year’s general election – can’t complain.
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The Highbury East ward member said: “I can’t speak for his case work, but I have seen him at loads of community events over the past year. I find that really impressive.
“A lot of leaders of national parties haven’t necessarily prioritised these sort of ordinary events and that is why he remains popular.”
It has been a difficult year for Finsbury Park Mosque, which suffered two hate attacks. But chairman Mohammed Kozbar said: “Every time we have had a problem, he has offered his support. He was quickly on to the authorities when the pig remains were thrown over in May.
“He’s still the same humble person who deals with the community in a perfect way. He hasn’t changed at all.”
Barrie O’Shea, headteacher of Duncombe Primary in Hornsey Rise for 26 years, said he has seen “more of Jeremy than ever before”.
“He has always attended our end-of-year awards presentation, and made it clear he would prioritise it in July. As promised, he was there. He also visited us the day after the Syria bombing debate, and when the controversy over academisation of schools was raging, he gathered questions from the pupils to ask David Cameron in the Commons.
“When one of the parents is in difficulty, and there is nothing else I can do, he is always happy to take on their case. It shows how well grounded he is, and that his heart is in the community. Jeremy must be one of the best constituency MPs in the country.”
Last weekend, Mr Corbyn paid a visit to Caris Boxing Club for homeless people in Finsbury Park. Founder Sam Hadfield said: “He spent an hour talking to all the lads and girls. One fella who has been training with us for four years suffers depression. Jeremy told him: ‘You’re a champion.’ That sort of thing means a lot.
“Over the years, he has been so supportive. As leader, he is still exactly the same as he was before.”
And as a passionate supporter of the arts, Mr Corbyn enjoys visiting Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.
Creative director Jez Bond said: “He brought a whole entourage from his office to see the Christmas show, Rapunzel, last December.
“Jeremy has been an important ambassador for us.”
So what does the man himself make of all this praise?
“I’m very grateful for those kind comments,” Mr Corbyn said. “But more than that, I’m proud. From the moment I was elected as Labour leader a year ago, I made it very clear I represent Islington North, and that I wasn’t going to disappear. I love the area.
“I’ve maintained those responsibilities and will continue to do so.”
Are you happy with Mr Corbyn’s performance as MP? Have your say in our opinion section by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org