Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reveals that he has been a geography teacher
PUBLISHED: 19:38 07 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:51 08 January 2016
Jeremy Corbyn's famously disdaining look across the despatch box has been dubbed his "geography teacher stare".
Jeremy Corbyn’s famously disdaining look across the despatch box has been dubbed his “geography teacher stare”.
There may be an explanation. Recounting tales of his youth to regional journalists on Thursday, the Labour leader revealed that he had in fact taught geography in his past.
At his first press lunch, Mr Corbyn told how he had been asked to teach the subject to 70 children in Jamaica, describing how he had headed off to the Caribbean island aged 18 to be a volunteer youth worker and teacher.
“It was really a defining moment of my life because I was thrown in at the deep end as an 18-year-old who arrived in Jamaica and somebody said: ‘would you teach geography?’. But it was not just general geography, it was Caribbean geography.
“I was then confronted with a class of 70 kids to teach geography to of something I was barely aware of. I worked out what all teachers do. If you are a chapter ahead of the class you are okay until you have a really bright kid, and then you have got a problem. “You say ‘don’t be so pushy, give a chance to the others’,
“So I learnt tactics of crowd control during that process and also a great deal about people and how you deal with a crisis, because you have to deal with it because you have got no choice.”
The 66-year-old has done a number of jobs since coming back to Britain. He spoke with fondness about his career as a local cub reporter on the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser - describing how he had learnt the process of “making something out of nothing”.
But joked with self-depreciation that: “I understand one of my brothers [not climate sceptic Piers] says I am a very bad journalist. I must speak to him about it.”
It was his writing which he claims has given him an interest in the issues communities face and it is not just since he became leader that he has travelled around the country.
“I find this growing sense of regionalism and local identity something that is really interesting. Even in student communities, who in the past the last thing they would want to do is be seen to be part of the local community, actually want to be part of the local community. I find that fascinating.”
His regional tours help to feed his interest in Britain’s train links, something he feeds on his travels as he reads about the history of railways.
“I had a discussion with Andy McDonald who has just been appointed as our shadow rail minister about the whole issue of reopening railways and branch lines and the community railway idea, and the discussion that goes with that.”
He claimed that travelling south to north in Britain was “like a study of rolling stock history of Britain where you end up with almost slam door trains in the very north and you start off with very sophisticated new electric trains in the south”.
And after a visit to York after the Christmas floods he is keen to give his views on what to do about protecting communities from deluges of water - an issued he raised in PMQs yesterday.
“The style I am trying to do for PMQS is very different to what has been done before. Some of my colleagues here are disappointed in it, because they want to retain the theatre of this place and they say it is damaging to the atmosphere of parliament. I don’t see it that way at all. As far as I am concerned I was elected the leader of this party on a strong mandate of party members in all parts of Britain.
“I have said all along that I want to change the style of the way we do things in parliament, hence I am doing these questions which are basically crowd-sourced.” - an initiative which can prompt as many as 40,000 emails in a week, all of which he admits he does not read.
“If politics is to be made relevant and serious for people’s needs then it has to be conducted in a relevant and serious way here. I want to be part of improving that process,” he added.
Among a number of policy reviews he wants to revive the idea of a constitutional convention, which he said will look at powers in Westminster such as the role of the House of Lords, the powers of the House of Commons and how it holds the executive to account.
But not everything has been plain sailing for the Labour leader since he was elected by members in September.
He admitted the struggles of this week’s cabinet reshuffle - which he described as an “adjustment” - was like playing multi- dimensional chess”.
“You start off with a chess board and that’s fine, then you realise you’re playing a game on a parallel board as well and then you suddenly find there’s a third board down the way,” he said.
“Because if you move someone from department A to department B, that creates a vacancy in A, which you might need to fill with somebody from C, that then creates a vacancy in E, and by the way somebody in group G is very upset with the job they’ve got and wants to move somewhere else,” added Mr Corbyn.
And was candid about the mammoth 66-hour marathon admitting that it had taken so long because so many Labour members wanted to talk things through.
“My great failing in life is to listen to everybody at whatever greater length they wish to speak to me,” he said.
“And this building is full of people who speak at great length on lots of things. And so I sat in my office until midnight for two nights running to go through all of this and we finally completed all the appointments last night by a series of text messages whilst I was on the platform at a huge rally in support of legal aid with me and Helena Kennedy and Peter Kavanagh from Unite speaking at Conway Hall,” he added.
He is philosophical about the travails of being a leader.
“Of course I appointed a shadow cabinet that has changed a bit, not much. But it does reach out to all parts of the Labour Party. I said during the campaign I would build this coalition.
I know there are critics, there are always critics, always critics of a reshuffle. No reshuffle goes the way it was initially intended.”
Something his predecessor attests to.
“Ed Miliband has told me the same,” he adds.