Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn looks back on ‘relentless’ 2015
- Credit: Vickie Flores
He started 2015 as a veteran backbencher. Yet today, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most famous faces in the country.
But if he proves to be a successful leader, it won’t be having neglected his constituency of 32 years.
Speaking to the Gazette about a life-changing year, Mr Corbyn assured: “I’ve been very proud to represent Islington North and have a good reputation as its MP. I intend to keep it that way.”
The 66-year-old entered the Labour leadership contest in June. He was a voice of the left, and a 200-1 outsider.
To make the shortlist, he required 35 nominations from Labour MPs. With an hour to go before deadline, he still needed nine more votes, and managed the minimum 35 with minutes to spare. Some claimed his success or failure depended on colleagues’ trains being on time.
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He may have only scraped onto the ballot, but a bout of “Corbynmania” ensured he won the election in September with a landslide 60 pc of the vote.
Mr Corbyn, for so long on the fringes of mainstream politics, was now living in a different world, a world where journalists - not the Gazette - camp outside his home in Finsbury Park nearly every day.
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This has been Mr Corbyn’s one major gripe since being elected, and he said: “It’s not let up. They are there most of the time. I’ve made it clear I will not give interviews to anyone waiting outside my house.
“I apologised to my neighbours for the intrusion in my Christmas cards, and thankfully they have been very understanding.”
So how does Mr Corbyn view his leadership so far? Our discussion ranges from time management to baking cakes.
Jeremy Corbyn on...
Balancing Islington North constituency duties with the Labour leadership
“I think I’ve maintained a very good balance. I live here myself, I hold at least two advice bureaus every month and get out to as many schools and events as possible.
“I recently enjoyed the pantomimes at St George’s Church (Crayford Road, Holloway) and Park Theatre (Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park). And earlier this month I was at the Finsbury Park Mosque vigil and Chanukah ceremony on Islington Green.
“I’ve been very proud to represent Islington North and have a good reputation as its MP. I intend to keep it that way. When I go out speaking to people, I always get sound advice. I’m determined not to get cut off.”
What he has enjoyed most as Labour leader
“The best part has been the opportunity to question the Prime Minister once a week and campaign around the country.
“I’ve just been doing a list: in the past year I’ve been to 60 towns and cities as part of the general election campaign, Labour leadership campaign and as Labour leader. It has been a relentless demand for time, whether in Parliament or elsewhere, but I’ve enjoyed it.”
How he relaxes
“You have to recognise that working 24/7 doesn’t mean you are being productive. You have to switch off and relax.
“I do different things. I read widely, and importantly material nothing to do with what I face day-to-day. I also like running, going to my allotments and, when I’m in the house, things like baking bread and cakes.”
Islington’s ongoing issue with knife crime
Shortly after we spoke yesterday afternoon, news broke of a man in his 30s stabbed to death in Hilldrop Crescent, Holloway - in Mr Corbyn’s constituency.
It was the fourth knife-related death in Islington this year, following Alan Cartwright, 15, Stefan Appleton, 18, and Vaso Kakko, 17. Mr Corbyn said solving the problem is as much to do with a culture change as policy.
“We need education in the schools and support for youth workers.
“But above all, people need to feel part of society, with jobs and careers available. We need to recognise that for some, life can be stressful. There’s a great saying in Africa: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. That’s what we need to be mindful of.”