Jeremy Corbyn’s name has become a slogan in its own right, chanted by crowds at Glastonbury and emblazoned on T-shirts. But the British Labour leader has now revealed that he was never meant to be called “Jeremy” at all.
In a TV interview with comedian John Bishop, Mr Corbyn said that his parents agreed a name for him soon after his birth in 1949, only for his father to change his mind on the way to have it registered, without telling his mother.
His mother, Naomi, who died in 1987, never revealed what their first choice had been, he said – leaving open the question of whether any other name would have fitted so well to the tune of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.
“I was supposed to be called something else,” Mr Corbyn said. “My mum and dad agreed what I was going to be called and he took the papers to go off and register the birth, and then he changed the name.”
Asked if father David make the name-swap without consulting his wife, Mr Corbyn replied: “Yes… To her dying day she would never tell me what it was. I said ‘Can’t you tell me what it was going to be?’ She said ‘I can’t tell you’. So we can only speculate.”
Discussing his family life with Bishop, Mr Corbyn described how he felt he had “fallen by the wayside” by going into politics when his three elder brothers all become engineers and scientists. And he spoke of his devastation at the death of geologist brother Andrew from a brain haemorrhage while on an expedition to Papua New Guinea in 2001.
Mr Corbyn had to go to collect Andrew’s body from the remote island nation, and recalled it as “one of the most horrifying and horrific things” he had ever done.
“He was in his fifties. We got on very well actually, we were very close. We were all close,” he said.
“It was a brain haemorrhage, which was very sad. I was eventually phoned about it and I just remember the devastation of it.
“And so I then went to Papua New Guinea basically to pick up his body and take it to his wife and children in Australia, where they were living. I’d been to Papua New Guinea with him once before … it was one of the most horrifying and horrific things to do, you know.”
Mr Corbyn also revealed that a neighbour placed a bet on him to win the Labour leadership at a time when he was the 200-1 rank outsider.
“Every day I go out on that campaign, he says ‘are you going to win?'” said Mr Corbyn “I said ‘I don’t know!’. He said ‘Look, I’ve put a lot of money on this, you’ve got to win’. No pressure, like. I was like ‘I’ve got to win this for him, now’.”
:: John Bishop: In Conversation With Jeremy Corbyn called be seen on W on Thursday November 23 at 9pm.