Had Jeremy Corbyn been active in Indian politics, he would most certainly be called a ‘jholawala’ – one who dresses simply, carries a cloth bag, passionately believes in left policies, and joins almost every rebel cause on the streets.
On Saturday, the 66-year-old who was hitherto confined to the back benches in the House of Commons and was mostly unknown except to the focussed band of ‘jholawalas’, was catapulted to the pole position of leader of Labour, the main opposition party.
Born in 1949 in Wiltshire, south-west England, Corbyn was elected seven times from the London constituency of Islington North, considered a bastion of a left-leaning middle class. He was a London councillor before moving on to parliamentary politics.
Corbyn has been so left-wing that he divorced his second wife of 12 years, Claudia Bracchitta, because she refused to send their son to a failing comprehensive school. His first wife was Jane Chapman (divorced in 1979) and earlier this year he married Laura Alvarez.
Corbyn is seen as one of the most rebellious Labour MPs, having voted against his party more than 500 times during his parliamentary career, mostly recently against a welfare bill brought by the David Cameron government – the rest of his party MPs abstained.
In an era in British politics marked by spin and television-friendly politicians, Corbyn comes across as a honest man adhered to conviction politics, not afraid to tick off journalists, as he did after being elected leader on Saturday.
He has been a regular and passionate participant for over 40 years in demonstrations and marches, championing controversial causes, helping distribute pamphlets, and as one of the foremost speakers wielding a megaphone on the streets.
However, even his most ardent supporters would not have imagined that he would so energise a dejected party after losing the May elections that he would end up as leader of Her Majesty’s opposition in the House of Commons.
His critics inside and outside the party – including leading lights such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – believe he would make Labour unelectable in 2020, but hundreds of thousands believed otherwise, as he polled nearly 60% votes in the leadership election.
Both Prime Minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne termed Corbyn as a threat to security: to national security as well as financial security, due to his hardline opposition towards conflict and war, and financial austerity needed to balance the books.
One of Corbyn’s first brushes with Cameron will be on Wednesday, during the gladiatorial Prime Minister’s Question Time, when the slick prime minister would taken on the perennial rebel from the streets.