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Labour hopeful Jeremy Corbyn's links to Sinn Fein, Hamas and Hezbollah

Leadership front-runner met Adams at height of Troubles

Jeremy Corbyn (left) with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the House of Commons in 1995
Jeremy Corbyn (left) with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the House of Commons in 1995
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn

By Liam Clarke

The man being touted as the next leader of the Labour Party hobnobbed with Sinn Fein well before the IRA campaign ended and counts Hamas and Hezbollah among his political friends.

Veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has secured the most nominations so far from constituency parties and is reportedly topping some private opinion polls, defying his initial status as a rank outsider.

Conservatives believe a victory for Mr Corbyn in the leadership ballot - or even a strong showing - would boost their electoral chances partly due to his anti-austerity stance.

While some in Northern Ireland might baulk at his connections, they might appreciate that if he ever became Prime Minister, he would probably give Stormont more money for welfare.

Subsidising our welfare system would be a far easier ask with him than with David Cameron.

Mr Corbyn was a supporter of the republican Troops Out movement during the Troubles, which campaigned for the Army to be withdrawn from Northern Ireland.

Mr Corbyn, a former columnist with the Communist Morning Star, is the Labour leader the Tories would like to fight.

Only last night, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith insisted he "genuinely" wished Mr Corbyn well in his bid to replace Ed Miliband.

And Mr Cameron recently told backbenchers he had given Mr Corbyn advice on how to win.

Recently, former UUP leader Tom Elliott revealed he believed unionists would have no option but to work with Mr Corbyn if he won the Labour leadership.

"Obviously you would have to deal with each leader as you find them. Even if he did have nationalist/republican sympathies we would want to work together for the betterment of Northern Ireland," he said.

Mr Corbyn backs a fairly standard old Left agenda - tax and spend, more generous benefits, opposition to the Iraq war and support for a united Ireland.

In 1984, 10 years before the IRA ceasefire and not long after the Brighton bomb, he and Ken Livingstone broke ranks with other Westminster politicians to invite Gerry Adams to speak in London.

One thing he is most unlikely to do here is to allow the Labour Party to contest elections in Northern Ireland. Andy Burnham is the only candidate who has pledged to work for that.

Yet Mr Corbyn could end up being Mr Burnham's kingmaker. During the recent Sunday Politics debate Mr Burnham was the only candidate to say he might give Mr Corbyn a seat on the shadow cabinet, though he did make it clear that it wouldn't be Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Their votes could come together in the second round. That would still be the strongest position Mr Corbyn has reached since entering Parliament in 1983.

At 66, Mr Corbyn is far the oldest and far the most Left-wing of the candidates.

There is a considerable body of opinion, though not a majority, that Labour didn't stand for distinctive enough values in the last election.

A 'Tories for Corbyn' online campaign has also been launched, which encouraged Conservative supporters to sign up as registered Labour supporters for £3 to vote for Mr Corbyn.

They believe that can back him as the leader it would be easiest to beat at the next general election.

The bookies are trying to encourage interest in him, believing the punters who back him will lose.

Ladbrokes make him 4/1 compared to even money for Andy Burnham.

Last week a £1,000 bet briefly moved him up the odds. Yvette Cooper is 9/4 and Liz Kendall 4/1.

Belfast Telegraph


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