On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn was elected the new leader of the Labour Party after receiving an incredible 60 per cent of the vote.
In the last few days (and weeks), his name has dominated UK political coverage with those on the left rushing to support him, while Conservatives and even some in his own party have been outspoken in condemning him and his chances of winning the 2020 General Election.
He’s certainly mobilised the youth and a whole new generation are now showing an interest in politics, but who is Corbyn and what does he actually believe in?
A self-confessed democratic socialist, the 66-year-old has been a Labour Member of Parliament for Islington North since 1983.
In one of his first major speeches as leader of the party at today’s TUC conference, he claimed Labour can win the next election with a “vision of a better society”, and he accused David Cameron of being a “poverty denier”.
He also spoke about wanting to return Labour to its core roots, his hopes to change politics for the better and to redress “the policy of growing inequality” he claims the Tories have imposed, while vocalising his support for socialism and for the trade unions.
Meanwhile, the announcement of Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet gave something of an insight into his mindset, with a 50/50 split of male and female MPs (although there was some disappointment that his front bench roles went only to white men). In addition, he created a new Mental Health Minister role within the cabinet, showing his commitment to dealing with issues like depression better through the NHS.
Here are 15 examples of the policies which the new Labour leader stands for. A beginner’s guide to Corbyn, if you will…
1) Reduce the deficit by cracking down on tax avoidance
Corbyn wants to tackle the national deficit via higher taxes for the rich and a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion, rather than through spending cuts set to what he calls an “arbitrary” deadline. He’d also work to tackle “corporate welfare” and tax breaks for companies.
2) Renationalisation of the railways/public ownership of energy companies
The Conservative Party privatised British Rail in 1993 but Corbyn and many others believe that renationalisation is the way forward as a method of dealing with rising ticket prices and falling standards. He’s also opposed to the HS2 rail scheme, a high speed line which would link London and Birmingham, claiming the project would turn northern cities into “dormitories for London businesses”.
Corbyn also believes that UK energy companies should be under public ownership, saying he would be “much happier” with a “regulated, publicly run service delivering energy supplies”. He’s also extremely opposed to fracking.
3) Ditch Nuclear weapons plans
The new Labour leader is a long-term member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and believes replacing the current Trident programme would be a very costly mistake. He says the Tory plans to replace the nuclear missile system should be ditched, as the project’s £100bn price tag could be better spent “on our national well-being”.
4) Scrapping University tuition fees
Corbyn wants to establish a National Education Service, modelled on the NHS. This would mean state-funded academies and free schools would be forced to return to local authority control, while university tuition fees would be scrapped and replaced with grants.
I don’t think we’ll be confusing Corbyn with Nigel Farage, let’s put it that way!
The Labour leader recently said the immigration debate in this country has been “quite unpleasant”. In an interview with Channel 4 News, Corbyn added that the current discussion around the issue “fails to recognise the huge contribution migrants have made to this country”, and that “we should let people into this country who are desperate to get somewhere safe to live”.
He added in his speech today that, “Refugees are welcome here because they are the victims of human rights abuses” and “they are human beings, just like you and me [and] we hold out our hands and our hearts to them”.
6) No air strikes in Syria, talk to militant groups to ease tensions in the Middle East
Corbyn is the national chair of the Stop the War Coalition and says Labour should not support air strikes in Syria. He says that a bombing campaign against the nation would cause innocent civilians to suffer, and the better bet for helping Syria should be to reduce the supply of arms and funds to the Islamic State (ISIS).
He famously opposed military action against the Assad regime in 2013 and was an outspoken critic of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He also believes that talking to militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah is necessary to win peace in the Middle East.
7) Restrictions on the arms trade
On that note, Corbyn believes the arms trade in general should be restricted. He has said he’d prefer the “brilliance and skill of those in the arms industry be converted for peaceful purposes”.
8) Arms embargo imposed on Israel
Corbyn is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and said in August that Palestinian refugees should be given a “right of return”. He supports a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements and of Israeli universities that engage in arms research.
9) Rent controls should be re-introduced
Corbyn supports the re-introduction of rent controls, as well as linking private rents to local earnings, and the building of more council houses. All of these policies, he says, would help to reduce homelessness in the UK.
10) Remaining in the EU
More of a grey area. Corbyn has said he is not at all happy with the European Union as it stands but, the debate about whether the UK should remain in the European Union is a heated one. So, although Corbyn has said he wants to stay to fight for a “better Europe”, he has also not ruled out campaigning to leave.
He also opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal – a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S.
12) A united Ireland
Corbyn has long supported British withdrawal from Northern Ireland and even invited Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams to the House of Commons as far back as 1984.
13) Introduce a national maximum wage
While the debate about a national minimum wage continues, Corbyn has actually proposed a national maximum wage. This would introduce a cap on the salaries of the UK’s highest earners. He would also introduce a windfall tax on former state assets such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, which he says were privatised far too cheaply.
14) An end to Private Finance Initiative deals in the NHS
Corbyn has previously written in the Guardian that PFI deals with the NHS should be ended by using government funds to buy them out, as they’re a “mess” which are costing the health service billions.
15) No end to the monarchy
Although certain publications would have you believe that committed republican Corbyn is going to evict the Queen from Buckingham Palace if he becomes Prime Minister, Corbyn is actually on record as saying he has no plans to end the monarchy.
He told the New Statesman, “It’s not the fight I’m going to fight – it’s not the fight I’m interested in.”
In summary, Corbyn’s vision of the Labour Party represents a very different type of opposition than we’ve seen in recent times. Get set for a fascinating five years, at least!