British Labour Party Leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn (C) poses for pictures with supporters after addressing a rally at the Rock Tower in north London on September 10, 2015. Voting closed in the leadership contest for Britain's main opposition Labour party on Thursday after a campaign dominated by the shock popularity of radical left candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who looks set to win. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Veteran left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour Party by a landslide.

Mr Corbyn, who began the contest as a rank outsider, saw off a challenge from frontbenchers Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

He gained 251,417 or 59.5% of first preference votes – 40% more than his nearest rival Mr Burnham, who got 19%.

Ms Cooper was third on 17% and Ms Kendall a distant fourth with 4.5% of the vote.

A total of 422,664 people cast a vote – a turnout of 76%. Former minister and Gordon Brown ally Tom Watson was elected deputy leader.

Corbyn supporters chanted “Jez we did” as he took to the stage, putting on his glasses to deliver his acceptance speech. Media captionJeremy Corbyn won the contest in the first round of voting, with 251,417 votes. The left winger, who has spent his entire 32 year career in the Commons on the backbenches, promised to fight for a more tolerant and inclusive Britain – and to tackle “grotesque levels of inequality in our society”.

He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.

“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they are “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted. We have to, and must, change that.”

Mr Corbyn added: “The fight back now of our party gathers speed and gathers pace.”

Labour has elected its most left wing, most rebellious and most inexperienced leader in its history.

And few in the party appear certain of what will happen next.

Will Labour plunge into civil war as moderates refuse to stand in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and leftists organise to deselect Blairite MPs?

Or will the mild-mannered Mr Corbyn surprise by reaching out to Middle England with the promise of a different kind of politics that appeals in an era of anti-politics?

Will the Conservatives attack or ignore Mr Corbyn and occupy even more of the political centre ground as Labour shifts left?

Will Mr Corbyn’s anti-war stance have an impact on the government’s thinking on airstrikes over Syria? Will his Euroscepticism make Britain leaving the EU more likely?

And above all, will Mr Corbyn make Labour as unelectable as many of his MPs assume or provoke a long-repressed debate that renews the party for a new generation?

He left school with his headmaster’s admonishing words ringing in his ears that he would “never make anything” of himself.

And for many years it looked as though Jeremy Bernard Corbyn might indeed fulfil the low expectations held by many of the earnest, pleasant, but politically obsessive former grammar-school boy.

With a poor set of school results, a modest career as trade union official turned hard-left backbench MP, and two failed marriages, Mr Corbyn’s life could – until now at least – be described as a study in well-meaning mediocrity.

He has never held a ministerial position, nor even been a shadow minister or at the head of any major organisation. His trademark has been principles over strategy, idealism over pragmatism.

Nobody – at least until his campaign built up an unstoppable momentum towards Saturday’s landslide victory –thought of him as leadership material, least of all himself.

Newly elected Labour leader Jeremy CorbynNewly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn  Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

Corbyn was born neither to the wealth and privilege that all-too often lends a sense of entitlement, nor to the poverty and despair that can drive ambition and a thirst for revenge, but to the world of the modestly aspiring, but politically conscious, middle-class.

His father David, the son of a solicitor, was a gifted electrical engineer who went on to use his skills on behalf of the war effort.

His mother Naomi Josling, the daughter of a surveyor, was a scientist – a rarity at a time when few women attended university – who later became a maths teacher.

The couple were imbued with the radical left-wing politics of the Thirties.

David met Joslin at a committee meeting in support of the Spanish republic in its life or death struggle with Franco’s Fascists and Mr Corbyn remembers that they both took part in the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, when a coalition of trade unionists, Jews and East Enders famously prevented Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts marching through the area.

Politics were an enduring theme for the Corbyn family, to be discussed at the dinner table and put into practice in the world outside. Indeed in her later years, Corbyn’s mother would make a 50-mile round journey on her tiny scooter from her Wiltshire village to deliver food to the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common. She also wrote a history of the village from the point of view of its working people.

During the Second World War David had been was dispatched to Wiltshire to work on a top secret scientific project and joined Westinghouse Brake and Signals, in rural Chippenham.

The couple moved into a detached house in the picturesque village of Kington St Michael – and went on to have four sons, of whom Jeremy, born in May 1949, was the youngest.

The family later moved to Shropshire, into a seven-bedroom manor house on the Duke of Sutherland’s estate outside Newport. Yew Tree Manor had been a guesthouse and Corbyn’s father had liked it so much when he stayed there that he decided to buy it.

Jeremy Corbyn's family homeThe family home  Photo: Jay Williams/The Telegraph

David Mann, 66, a childhood friend of Jeremy who now runs a chain of sports centres, said of the atmosphere at Yew Tree Manor: “The house was a bit chaotic and very bohemian. There were books everywhere. Jeremy’s mum was the first woman our family knew who had been to university.”

Despite their left-wing politics, the Corbyns sent the boys to a fee-paying prep-school and all four went on to win scholarships to the Adams’ Grammar School, which dates back to 1656 and to this day models itself on a minor public school.

Foreshadowing his future anti-militarism the young Corbyn, already a supporter of CND, refused to join the school’s cadet force “and prance around in uniform” and was put on gardening duties.

Mr Mann, who by contrast went on to become an Army officer, said: “Jeremy never struck me as the brain of Britain, but he was doggedly determined.”

For all his doggedness however, the young Corbyn left school with just two E-grade A-levels. It is unclear what went wrong, given his family’s love of learning and ideas, but he has admitted that he was “not a very good student”, telling the Shropshire Star: “The head teacher’s parting comments to me were: ‘You will never make anything of yourself.’”

He later added: “I liked reading about things, doing my own course of study in that sense.”

Without the qualifications to go to university, Mr Corbyn spent some time working on a farm and as a reporter on his local paper, before traveling to Jamaica for two years with the VSO programme, an experience he described as “amazing”.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a picket line at NeasdenJeremy Corbyn addressing a picket line at Neasden  Photo: Michael Pattison/The Telegraph

On his return, he enrolled in a course in trade union studies at North London Polytechnic, dropped out after rowing with his tutors.

The course did enable him to get a job as a trade union official, first as a senior organiser with the now-defunct National Union of Public Employees, followed by a stint with the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers. At the age of 24 he became a councillor in the north London borough of Haringey.

It was here that the political obsessive in Mr Corbyn emerged, throwing himself into each campaign with all the enthusiasm of the last, including the attempt to get Tony Benn elected Labour’s deputy leader in 1981.

Benn narrowly lost, but two years later, when the sitting MP for Islington North, Michael O’Halloran, defected to the SDP, Corbyn was himself elected to Parliament.

Although he established himself as a powerfully independent voice on the backbenches, questions still remain in Islington about how much notice Mr Corbyn took at the time of the brewing scandal of abuse taking place in its children’s homes.

By now he had gone through one ill-fated marriage, to fellow political activist Jane Chapman. The couple, who were both elected as councillors in Haringey, had met while working on Labour’s 1974 Election campaign, but his unrelenting political activism took its toll, leaving no room for anything else, such as going to the cinema or our for a meal. The marriage ended in 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher came to power.

“He’s a genuinely nice guy,” said Professor Chapman recently. “The problem is that his politics are to the exclusion of other kinds of human activities.”

Professor Chapman paints a picture of an English ‘socks and sandals’ eccentric, a strict vegetarian and teetotaller, who would eat cold beans from a can because he did not like wasting precious time on cooking and named his cat after Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Her husband’s idea of a good night out was apparently to head off to the local Labour Party HQ for a spot of photocopying.

Professor ChapmanProfessor Chapman  Photo: Martin Pope/The Telegraph

Although their courtship seemed to consist mainly of going to meetings Mr Corbyn did splash out on a 116-year-old emerald engagement ring for his girlfriend.

Chapman, now a Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln, said Mr Corbyn’s biggest flaw was “not taking into account other human interests” beyond politics.

“He’s totally committed to politics, so your emotional life as part of a relationship takes a back seat,” she said: “He liked the Rolling Stones and the bands that were current at the time but he had his priorities sorted.

“My disappointment was the time management. I wanted to spend some of my time doing other things and that would be my criticism of him, that his time management doesn’t allocate sufficient time to doing other things.”

Politics also did for his second marriage, to Claudia Bracchitta, a Chilean who like Corbyn was active in the campaign against her country’s dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The couple split in 1999, falling out over her insistence that one of their sons should attend a grammar school outside of the borough rather than one of Islington’s then-failing comprehensives.

Mr Corbyn and his sonsMr Corbyn and his sons

Ms Bracchitta said at the time “It isn’t a story about making a choice, but about having no choice. I couldn’t send Ben to a school where I knew he wouldn’t be happy. Whereas Jeremy was able to make one sort of decision, I wasn’t. It’s a position you are pushed into rather than one you choose.”

The couple remained close, however, buying an old house which they divided into two flats in order to continue to provide a family environment for their three sons: Ben, now a successful football coach with junior players at Premier League team Watford FC, Sebastian, a key member of his campaign team, and Thomas, now a student.

Mr Corbyn now lives with his third wife, Laura Alvarez, 46, who he met at a Latin American support group six years ago.

Ms Alvarez runs a small fair trade company importing coffee from her native Mexico.

Jeremy Corbyn with his wife Laura AlvarezJeremy Corbyn with his wife Laura Alvarez  Photo: The Picture Library Ltd

Such is the emphasis that Mr Corbyn places on political and personal integrity – he is one of the MPs to claim the least in Parliamentary expenses – that a Sunday newspaper expose which found that the farmers who grew some of her coffee were underpaid caused the couple significant embarrassment.

Although the episode never seriously threatened Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign it led to Ms Alvarez issuing an apology.

In fact the leadership campaign almost failed before it had even got started.

Mr Corbyn was initially reluctant to stand, following the Labour party’s disastrous showing at the general election on May 7 and Ed Miliband’s hurried resignation.

In the days that followed, MPs such as John McDonnell – a fellow London MP and Mr Corbyn’s oldest friend in the Commons – Diane Abbott and Michael Meacher, from the party’s Socialist Campaign Group, began discussion which of them should stand in order to ensure that the Blairites and moderate centrists did not have the debate all their own way.

But no outstanding candidate could be found. Mr McDonnell had stood before and failed. In 2010, Ms Abbott had come last.

By the end of May, with no candidate forthcoming, it seemed that the Labour Left would have to stand aside this time. Over the course of the next few days Mr McDonnell persuaded his old friend that 2015 was his turn to carry the flag for socialism.

But it was only on June 3, after yet another meeting of the Campaign Group, and with just 12 days left until nominations closed, that Corbyn – with all eyes turned to him – finally agreed.

Jeremy Corbyn with supporters after addressing a rally at the Rock Tower

According to one of his allies he “did not think for one second that he would win.” In fact, Mr Corbyn was so sure he would fail even to make the ballot paper that he told one MP: “A few weeds are going to be springing up in my allotment, but I’ll be able to get back to it shortly.”

Team Corbyn now had to persuade 35 MPs to nominate their man if he was to make it onto the ballot of candidates.

At the outset, Mr Corbyn had just 10 of the nominations he needed. Bombarded with tweets and emails from activists demanding a “full debate” through the inclusion of the Left on the ballot paper, more MPs reluctantly caved in and nominated him.

However, by Monday June 15 – the deadline day for nominations – he still did not have enough names behind him and Mr Corbyn began preparing for defeat. Once again, it appeared that Labour’s Left wing had failed to organise a viable candidate who could bring Socialism back to the heart of the party.

Over cups of tea at a table among the fig trees and fountains in the atrium of Parliament’s Portcullis House, the Corbyn team held a crisis meeting.

His son, Seb; Mr McDonnell; and Mr McDonnell’s adviser, Harry Fletcher, drafted a press release – to be issued if he did not make the ballot – denouncing the undemocratic procedures by which a tiny fraction of the party – the 0.1 per cent of members represented by the MPs – had denied the vast majority a proper choice over their next leader. But it was not needed.

Seb Corbyn, son of Jeremy Corbyn, adjusts his hair as he arrives to answer questions from the media outside King's Cross StationSeb Corbyn, son of Jeremy Corbyn, adjusts his hair as he arrives to answer questions from the media outside King’s Cross Station  Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

At 11.59am, Andrew Smith, a former Cabinet minister under Tony Blair, registered his nomination for Mr Corbyn. In the final seconds before the deadline, the veteran backbencher had secured enough nominations to make it onto the ballot.

Although some of those who nominated Mr Corbyn for the sake of a wider debate – such as Margaret Beckett – now regret doing so, Mr Smith stands by his decision. “Given the level of support shown for Jeremy during the contest, it would have been indefensible not to have had him on the ballot paper,” he said.

The following week was chaos. There were hustings and rallies to organise but Mr Corbyn had no office – or even a desk – from which to run his campaign. Parliamentary rules meant he could not use his room in the Commons. He began piecing together his campaign team, including Simon Fletcher, who was Ed Miliband’s liaison officer with the trade unions, as the new campaign director.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn’s performances at the leadership hustings were winning him powerful friends. At the end of June the TSSA union gave him its backing and made a floor of its offices at Euston Station available for him to use as his headquarters.

To begin with neither Mr Corbyn nor his team thought he had much hope. This changed at the first leadership hustings, on June 27, in Birmingham. Hosted by Sky News’s political correspondent, Sophie Ridge, the event was more raucous than most had anticipated.

Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate, was jeered and shouted down by the audience when she argued that austerity measures were needed to balance the budget. Mr Corbyn, who railed against Tory cuts, was cheered to the rafters.

Labour leadership candidates from left, Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, and Andy BurnhamLabour leadership candidates from left, Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, and Andy Burnham  Photo: Scott Heppell/AP

Ironically, it was a decision by George Osborne that arguably did most to inject life into Mr Corbyn’s campaign. In mid-July, the Chancellor called a Commons vote on the Welfare Bill, which set out measures to reduce the welfare cap and cut tax credit payments to families.

It was a classic trap for Labour. The party’s acting leader Harriet Harman argued that the public wanted Labour to be responsible and that the party should not oppose all of Mr Osborne’s cuts. Mr Corbyn was the only one of the leadership candidates to defy Mr Harman and vote against the Bill.

This led to a huge groundswell of support for the Left-winger and also brought him the backing of key trade unions including Unite and the GMB.

Mr Corbyn’s campaign also unleashed a grass-roots revolution.

He raised £300,000, much of it in small donations from individuals, and over 16,000 volunteers signed up to canvass for him and staff phone banks at offices around the country. Everywhere he went, he was mobbed like a rock star, and cheered wildly at overcrowded rallies from which hundreds had to be turned away. Online, especially on Twitter and Facebook, huge numbers of supporters portrayed him as the messenger of hope, a man with passion and energy, despite his veteran status as an MP since the 1980s.

Mr Corbyn and his supporters say they have tapped into part of the electorate that for years has felt ignored by establishment politicians.

Never one to tow the party line Mr Corbyn, now 66, has enthusiastically supported numerous ‘maverick’ causes that at the time seemed neither popular nor winnable and have seen him labelled a ‘Trotskyite’ .

He opposed apartheid before it was fashionable to do so and he championed a united Ireland long before the Good Friday Agreement ultimately brought Sinn Fein into the Northern Ireland government. In 1998 he was the only Labour MP to vote in a favour of a Liberal Democrat amendment to outlaw homophobic discrimination.

But he also backs the creation of a Palestinian nation – condemning what he calls Israel’s apartheid state – and has shared platforms with groups many consider to be dangerous Islamists and anti-Semites, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and he remains a committed anti-militarist; anti-NATO and anti-nuclear weapons.

Given Mr Corbyn’s history of underachievement and his politics of permanent opposition, it is perhaps no surprise that his leadership bid should have been derided and underestimated by his rivals.

They must now surely be regretting making that mistake.

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