Jeremy Corbyn: A rise from the fringes of mainstream politics to Labour leader
- Credit: Vickie Flores
Jeremy Corbyn has spent virtually his entire career on the fringes of mainstream politics.
But this weekend the 66-year-old Islington MP has stormed to victory in the Labour leadership race with a staggering 59.5 per cent share of the vote in the first round.
Mr Corbyn secured his seat as MP for Islington North in 1983 – the year when Labour’s general election manifesto was described as the “longest suicide note in history”.
He still stands by many of the policies from the document championed by then-leader Michael Foot – such as unilateral nuclear disarmament and renationalisation of utilities.
But over the next three decades or so the party took a different path from Mr Corbyn, with first Neil Kinnock, then John Smith and Tony Blair shifting it towards the political centre ground.
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Mr Corbyn was among a small “awkward squad” of left-wingers who repeatedly rebelled against Blairite policies – in vain given Labour’s huge Commons majority post-1997.
He staunchly opposed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the early noughties, becoming national chairman of the Stop the War coalition in 2001.
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Mr Corbyn never gained much of a profile beyond Westminster and his natural milieu on the left, but his support in Islington has continued to grow during his 32 year career as MP for the UK’s smallest constituency.
He has been at the forefront of many campaigns against cuts to public services including the proposed sell off of part of the Whittington Hospital site in 2013.
And the stalwart was re-elected earlier this year with a landslide victory which eclipsed his closest rival by a majority of 21,194 – surpassing his 2010 majority by nearly 9,000.
Indeed, throughout his campaign he has been keen to stress his commitment to Islington should he become the next Labour leader, vowing to tackle the borough’s swelling housing list as a priority, re-address the benefits cap and “rebalance” the community which he says has been divided by soaring house prices due to the lack of power locally to restrict the number of luxury housing developments.
In an interview with the Gazette in July, he said: “I’ve spent the last three decades and more representing the people of this area and that is not going to change. People have been incredibly supportive. I thought initially when we decided that we were going to give it a go, that people wouldn’t be very happy about it.
“On the contrary, there has been nothing but overwhelming friendship and them saying: ‘good luck’ and we’ll support you whatever the result.”
Mr Corbyn, as someone who had never displayed an ambition to climb the ministerial ladder previously, has also been overwhelmed by the support for his campaign nationally.
When he announced in June that he was standing for the leadership, his chances were largely dismissed by commentators.
He very nearly failed to make it on to the ballot paper – achieving the required 35 nominations from MPs just two minutes before the deadline.
The threshold was only crested because figures on the right of the party, such as Frank Field, backed him to broaden the debate.
But if people were surprised that Mr Corbyn reached the starting line, they were shocked by what happened next.
His easy, conversational style and willingness to propose radical policies – such as printing money to ease pressure on the Government’s finances – saw him outperform the three cautious frontbenchers in a series of hustings, before going onto win the contest with 251, 417 votes, in what is a landmark day in Islington’s political history and turning point for Labour.