1974 was the turbulent year in which Britain underwent two parliamentary elections. It was also the year Corbyn met the woman who had become his first wife during endless hours of flying and advertising campaigns.
Jane Chapman was 23 and graduated from the London School of Economics. "Jeremy loved early," she recalled, "and said I was" the best of the best, "so I thought this must be the case."
Consumed by what she called the "whirlwind" – three-month romance – "he kept urge us to marry," she agreed, because "he was kind and lively and looked bright and not bad."
Of course, both were activists of the left – she says "Jeremy was a Trotskyist, no doubt" – and her respective local Labor departments selected everyone to attend the council elections for the Haringey district in North London. Both were elected and married two days later, on May 4, 1974, in the town hall.
None of the parents was impressed by the choice of their child. Chapman's mother, Tory for life, was not pleased that her ambitious daughter married a poor, uneducated union official.
"Jane was shocked that Corbyn did not read a single book in four years of marriage" (Image: Jane Chapman)
Corbyn's mother Naomi displeased her new "alpha-female" daughter-in-law. It was wrong to have such an obvious competitive component in a marriage.
The tensions worsened when Corbyn's brother Piers came to the wedding and looked even more awkward. Embarrassed, Naomi tore him off to buy a shirt and a suit, but they did not return until after the ceremony.
After a brief honeymoon in Ireland, the newlyweds returned to a tiny studio on the ground floor in Haringey and a year later moved to a larger ground floor apartment nearby. There ran several chickens, a cat, Harold Wilson and a dog named Mango to the garden.
The married life became a series of political meetings and demos. On some mornings they drove to the picket at 5.30 to assist the strikers.
One of the biggest surprises for Chapman was the complete lack of books in her husband's life.
In the four years of their marriage, he never read a single one. He did not think deeply about ideology or political philosophy. Her first judgment that he was "bright" was wrong.
His other handicap, Corbyn realized, was the lack of a working-class pedigree, especially when his family home was Yew Tree Manor, a 17th-century five-bedroom farmhouse in Shropshire.
From there, his parents – awkward, unconventional, but undeniably bourgeois – moved to a new home in Wiltshire to pursue their growing interest in archeology.
Politics was politely debated during Corbyn and Chapman's Sunday luncheon visits, but Corbyn's parents never mentioned that they were present at the Battle of Cable Street or that his father David had ever thought of fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
The introduction of these key events by her son in the biographies of his parents would be much later. As Jane Chapman found out, her husband's understanding of domestic finances was no better than his bleak understanding of economics. In keeping with his lifelong rejection of aspirations and success, he never talked about buying a bigger house or a car or increasing his income. When he came home at night, he happily opened a can of beans, swallowed them cold, and declared himself satisfied.
Jane Chapman, who held a Labor Party event in 1975 during her marriage to Jeremy Corbyn
Occasionally he returned late from a Hornsey Labor Party meeting with friends to sing IRA songs while they all drank beer.
He was sitting on the floor in his greasy, unwashed army jacket for surplus armies, ignoring the anger of his wife.
They rarely went out together. Invitations to dinner were refused. Chapman spent lonely evenings in her small apartment with Mango, the dog, and Harold Wilson, the cat, as her only companions, while Corbyn met political friends.
Among them was Haringey's colleague Bernie Grant, a bombastic Black Power Marxist from Guyana.
"It's racism to control immigration," Grant said frequently – an opinion that Corbyn had quickly adopted.
In the summer of 1976, Corbyn and Chapman set out on a 250cc Czech motorcycle for a camping holiday across Europe.
"Jeremy always opted for a holiday in August," Chapman said, "because there were no political meetings." She feared that the holiday would be as unpleasant in France, Spain and Portugal as it was last year.
The ordeal was not just riding on Corbyn's bumpy bike, but his passion for abstinence.
While Chapman wanted to sleep in a real bed and eat in interesting restaurants, Corbyn insisted on a small tent and cooked canned beans on a single Calor gas stove. The next Chapman, who had calmed down, was after a rain shower in front of Prague.
Reluctantly, Corbyn agreed to spend the night under cover, not in a hotel but in a dorm. He got angry when his motorcycle collapsed in Czechoslovakia. He supposed it would be easily repaired there for its manufacture. Instead, he was introduced to the realities of a communist economy.
After a brief honeymoon in Ireland, the newlyweds returned to a tiny studio on the ground floor in Haringey and a year later moved to a larger ground floor apartment nearby
The bike was exclusively for export and no Czech mechanic knew how to fix it. For two days, he raged until he was finally repaired.
During her trip, Chapman discovered that her husband was not interested in equality in marriage or housework. "He never talked about sex, music, fashion or books, he put class first."
Equally disturbing was his indifference to the most beautiful cities in Europe. In Vienna, he refused to enter Schönbrunn Palace, the emperor's summer retreat, because it was "royal". "You go in," he said, "I'll stay out."
European culture offended him. He stood in Vienna's Ringstrasse – described by many as the most beautiful boulevard in the world – and described it as "capitalist". He passed all museums and art galleries and found no joy in medieval cities.
In villages he was only interested in watching the farmers in their lives. In Prague, soaked in the pouring rain, he did not complain that he had missed the castle of Hradcany and took a walk through the old town. Nor did he comment on the decay of the city's old buildings, which were all neglected by their communist rulers. "Preserving architecture and heritage," recalls Chapman, "did not seem to be on his agenda."
For similar reasons he had always refused to accompany her to Paris, where she occasionally did research, or to Los Angeles to visit her aunt. He only spoke about elections, campaigns and demos, even if he knew only incompletely.
By contrast, he expressed great interest in the manhole covers of the UK, especially the manufacturing data: "My mother has always said that there is a story in the drain covers."
Most travelers from Austria to Czechoslovakia during the Cold War were shocked by the experience.
Just behind the customs buildings ran two rows of electrified barbed wire and a minefield in between. Over the eerie silence, armed soldiers looked in watchtowers with orders to shoot anyone from the Czech side.
Those caught within five miles without police permission at the border could face imprisonment. Any Western visitor riding a motorcycle through these fortifications would no doubt leave Eastern Europe as a prison. Czechs were poorly dressed, had little to eat and lived in dilapidated buildings.
Czechoslovakia, before 1939 a rich democracy, was a police state. But Corbyn did not utter a single word of criticism and expressed no sympathy for the country's 1968 liberation attempt from the Soviet Union.
He did not say anything about the thousands of learned and learned Czechs who were forced to accept less work as street cleaners or worse than punishment for resisting the Soviet occupation.
"He was a tankie," said his old friend and constituency Keith Veness, which meant that Corbyn had supported the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the rebellion of Prague 12 years later.
When Veness mentioned Stalin's cruelty in conversation, Jeremy went away. He could not lead any political arguments.
"He was a communist fellow traveler. The bastard has never apologized for the Moscow trials. "
The Corbyns returned to London, but Jeremy did not know that their marriage was breaking up.
"Jeremy never thought anything was wrong," Chapman recalled. "He assumed that, because our policies were compatible, this was a right relationship."
"She tried to make it work," Keith Veness said, "but he was not interested, he never came home, and the relationship slowly dissolved."
Chapman's wishes for more than just a political life – cinemas, restaurants, clubs, children – were ignored. "He did not recognize my emotional side," Chapman said. "He does not recognize the feelings of a woman."
At Christmas, she prepared a special vegetarian five-course lunch for Corbyn and his brother Piers. "They stuffed it in their esophagus and never thanked them," she recalls. She knew that her husband would have been happy with a can of beans: "Usually Tesco, not Heinz, but he would not know the difference."
Shortly before Christmas in 1979, Chapman left the family home. According to Keith Veness, she just gave him up. As she packed her things, Corbyn said to his wife, "You should read Simone de Beauvoir."
Obviously, he who was not the reader had heard of someone from de Beauvoir and did not understand the author's philosophy. De Beauvoir complained that women were considered "the second sex" and defined by their relationship with men. To save themselves, they should rise up by making the same choices as men – exactly what Chapman had decided.
Corbyn showed all the contradictions of an unresolved personality that is not connected to the real world.
His self-portrayal as a universal "go-gooder" conflicted with his inability to care for his wife, or even any female companion. He could not understand why his marriage had collapsed.
"He thought I left him on a feminist kick," Chapman recalled, "but I wanted to have some fun, his lack of emotional awareness did not change, and my emotional life as part of a relationship was forgotten."
Eventually, she realized that at the beginning of her relationship that she was "the best of the best", her judgment was due to "I was the only woman who would accept her political obsessions."
Nearly 20 years later, Corbyn invited Chapman to tea in the Commons. "You should relieve yourself," he advised her, as usual, convinced he was right.
If anyone lacked humor, Chapman thought, then it was her joyless husband.
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