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21 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn’s ex-wife says she voted for Owen Smith – 4 other things she’s shared

Chapman met Corbyn in the 1970s. 

By Julia Rampen

Jeremy Corbyn’s ex-wife has voted for Owen Smith in the Labour leadership election, saying: “It’s not politics – it’s leadership.”

Professor Jane Chapman, who was married to Corbyn from 1974 to  1979, voted for Corbyn in 2015, but told Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that Labour had been “such a painful sideshow this last year”.

And while she said Smith and Corbyn had similarly radical policies, the professor of communications warned Corbyn was failing to communicate properly with the party. 

She added: “To have a longer, post-Brexit vision, that is something that is missing. If he has got the vision, it’s not something that’s coming across sufficiently.”

The parliamentary Labour party will play a “crucial” role in vetting Brexit negotiations, she said: “The emphasis has to be on the PLP as well as the democracy and the grassroots.”

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He could develop better management skills, she said, but added: “We’re running out of time.”

Chapman married Corbyn after a “whirlwind romance”, and the couple’s left-wing activism earned them the nickname of “Haringey’s Nye Bevan and Jennie Lee”, according to Corbyn biographer Rosa Prince. 

But Corbyn’s overwhelming obsession with politics ultimately led them to drift apart. She moved into academia and is now Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln. 

Here are some other insights into Corbyn from Chapman:

1. He has always been a workaholic

Chapman was no political slacker – she stood for Parliament herself twice. But according to Prince’s book Comrade Corbyn, she described his politics as “to the exclusion of other kinds of human activities”. He also reportedly did no housework.

2. His support for feminism is genuine

Corbyn has come under fire from MPs for failing to protect them from sexist abuse. But Chapman told the Daily Mail in 2015 he believed “very strongly” in women’s equality. But she added: “It’s just got to be higher up on his agenda.”

3. He has little previous leadership experience

Corbyn had never experienced leadership at such a level before, Chapman told Radio 5 Live: “He’s never had outside experience in industry, or the third sector. His work experience was first as a union organiser, and then as an MP.”

4. He has always been austere

During his leadership campaigns, Corbyn has projected an image of a man who is personally austere, and doesn’t splash out on taxis (or train seats). Chapman told The Telegraph that back in the 1970s he had a “slightly puritanical ethic” and their courtship mainly consisted of political meetings and spending time together afterwards.