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Jeremy Corbyn 'a decent, lovely man', says DUP's Sammy Wilson

Exclusive: Politically we are poles apart, but he’s a very decent man, says DUP MP

By Suzanne Breen

Published 06/07/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said that while he loathes Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, he really likes him personally — and believes that he is an “honest, decent man”.

Mr Wilson made the surprise revelation as the Labour leader fights for his political life at Westminster with the majority of his own MPs demanding he resign.

While the DUP was believed to be universally antagonistic to Mr Corbyn, the East Antrim MP said he had a good personal relationship with him.

And he also disclosed that he is friends with the Labour leader’s brother, Piers, a weather forecaster who shares his own scepticism on global warming.

Mr Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph: “There is a decency and an honesty about Jeremy Corbyn that I admire. His views on Northern Ireland and his past associations with Sinn Fein — at a time when the IRA’s murderous campaign was in full swing — makes me very angry.

“But, on a personal level, I find Jeremy a lovely man. He would never walk past you in the corridor in the House of Commons without saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ He has time for people. He’s a true gentleman.”

The Labour leader is regularly criticised for his dress with his casual apparel standing out in a sea of Westminster suits. But Mr Wilson said he identified with Mr Corbyn’s determination to be his own man. “I like that rebellious streak in him,” he said.

“Those with an orthodox view of what a politician should be like try to impose their standards on Jeremy but he resists. He insists on being himself. He won’t be cowed by the establishment into appearing or acting in a certain way. I’m a bit like that myself. I don’t like conforming.”

Mr Wilson revealed that, several years ago, Mr Corbyn had invited him to address his North Islington constituency association. “The meeting was held in the back of a pub. There were very left-wing views expressed with which I totally disagreed. I argued my corner but the atmosphere was friendly. It certainly wasn’t a rough or hostile gathering,” he said. The DUP MP believed Mr Corbyn was “disastrous” for the Labour Party and was “unelectable”.

However, he reckoned that Mr Corbyn, who is popular with Labour grassroots, would survive the current challenge to his leadership. Last week, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the DUP had no relationship with Mr Corbyn and the sooner he was deposed, the better.

Mr Wilson said: “DUP views are coloured by Jeremy’s past associations. I haven’t been shy about viciously attacking him myself over those links but he’s never taken it personally and he has still been friendly to me afterwards.”

The DUP MP said he had hosted a meeting in Parliament four months ago for Jeremy’s brother Piers.

“He’s eccentric but thoroughly decent. It must run in the family. He is not afraid to deviate from mainstream opinion either. Like me, he doesn’t believe that global warming is a man-made phenomenon,” he said.

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