Jeremy Corbyn: the rise of the outsider

Just a few years ago, Jeremy Corbyn may have seemed an unlikely candidate for PM, but he’s in the running at this week’s general election. Tim Gibson tells the story of his life so far

Early life and education

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn was born in Chippenham, Wiltshire on 26 May 1949. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother was a maths teacher. Like their son, they were both committed pacifists.

Corbyn attended a prep school in Shropshire and then a grammar school, where he achieved two grade Es in his A-Levels before leaving to work as a journalist. He subsequently spent time volunteering in Jamaica, before returning to take up a career as a trade unionist. 

A lifelong passion for politics

The young Corbyn was renowned for this interest in politics. As a schoolboy, he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as well as the League Against Cruel Sports. He was a Labour activist, and a proud member of the Wrekin Young Socialists. 

This interest in political life continued as Corbyn pursued his career. In 1971, he started working for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers and the National Union of Public Employees, as well as enrolling on a course in Trade Unionism at North London Polytechnic. 

It was no surprise, therefore, when Corbyn won the Labour Party’s candidacy for the ultra-safe seat of Islington North, which he secured in the 1983 general election.

He’s been in post ever since, and was elected as the Labour leader after the 2015 election, having started the contest as a rank outsider. Despite securing 59.5% of the first preference votes, he faced a leadership challenge after the EU referendum in 2016. He won this comfortably, and some reports now suggest he could overhaul the Conservatives’ poll lead to become the surprise winner in Thursday’s general election. 

Personal Life

Corbyn lives with his third wife Laura Álvarez. He has three sons from a previous marriage.

Renowned for his clean living, Corbyn rarely drinks alcohol and doesn’t eat meat. His hobbies include running, cycling, cricket, and supporting Arsenal Football Club. 

In addition, Corbyn is known for his interest in the design of manhole covers, saying that he regularly photographs them. He is a keen home-grower of fruit and veg, and enjoys making jam. He is fluent in Spanish, and says his favourite author is the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, who wrote the classic Things Fall Apart


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Posted on Tuesday Jun 6