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Jeremy Corbyn praises "champion of social justice" Fidel Castro

The Labour leader said Castro was a key historical figure, despite his flaws. 

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called Fidel Castro a "massive figure in the history of the whole planet" after the Cuban revolutionary died aged 90.

Corbyn commended the social changes Castro had brought about, and praised his "heroism", according to the Press Association.

He told the newswire: "I think history will show that Castro was such a key figure."

In an official statement, he expanded:

"Fidel Castro's death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism.  

"From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba's record of international solidarity abroad, Castro's achievements were many.  

"For all his flaws, Castro's support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice."

Corbyn has a longstanding interest in the politics of the Americas and has in past backed the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which urges an end to the blockade of Cuba.

Castro's revolutionaries seized power in Cuba in 1959, and he would go on to govern the country for nearly 50 years, before handing over power to his brother, Raul. He was best-known for his willingness to stand up to the United States, his support for other former colonial countries and for delivering high standards of healthcare and education, although critics also condemned his record on human rights.

His death was announced by Raul, who told the nation on Friday night: "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening."

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.