Jeremy Corbyn is an atypical leader of the Labour party; one with almost total factional control of Britain’s opposition. To achieve this, the 70-year-old is surrounded by a tight cabal of influencers who shape both his politics and policies and are seen by many as the real people running Labour.
Many operate in the shadows; some hold elected offices, some are in parliament, and some wield power through informal networks. But nearly all of these individuals come from interconnected leftwing factions that were dismissed until Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015. They have campaigned, organised and socialised together from the sidelines for decades, having long ago given up on the idea of power.
As the prospect of government has never been closer, we reveal the power behind Mr Corbyn’s throne: those who have the leader’s ear at all times, those who are influential but not fully trusted, and those who nominally have a key role but whose influence is inconsistent.
This is Mr Corbyn’s new establishment, perhaps soon to become Britain’s new establishment.
The figures around Corbyn
Click or tap headshots to read more about these people
core:the inner circle of influencers who shape Corbyn’s thinking at all times
mid:key figures in the Corbyn project who occasionally find themselves out of favour
edge:individuals who are important to Corbyn but find their influence is inconsistent
While the core of 50 or so individuals involved in the Corbyn project have different levels of influence on the leader, they all share longstanding links through street activism, trade unions, parliamentary groups and fringe tribes within the party. How these individuals know and relate to each other is critical to understanding the control Mr Corbyn has over the party and the policies he will seek to implement if it makes it into government.
The shadow cabinet consists of 36 Labour MPs who hold specific policy briefs and senior roles in the party. They are the most senior Labour figures and are well-known for representing Jeremy Corbyn in public and in parliament. While his initial shadow cabinets were a mix of moderate figures and true Corbynites, nearly all members are fully loyal to the leader as his grip on the party has grown.
A small number of influential academics and think-tank members who formulate the basis of Mr Corbyn’s economic and social policy agenda.
The party’s ruling body. The National Executive Committee decides Labour’s policies and overall direction. It includes members of the shadow cabinet, MPs, representatives of constituency Labour parties, MEPs, activists and trade unionists. Traditionally a thorn in the side of party leaders, Mr Corbyn has gradually taken control of the NEC. In the last round of elected positions, all the positions were filled by candidates running on a Corbynite platform.
People's Assembly Against Austerity
A non-party-affiliated movement launched in 2013 holding mass rallies against the Conservative government’s cuts to public spending. The rallies sowed the seeds for the rise of Corbynism two years later.
Socialist Campaign Group
Traditionally the most hard-left caucus of the Parliamentary Labour party, its origins lie in Tony Benn’s controversial decision to run for the deputy leadership and it proved crucial in Mr Corbyn’s leadership bid.
An amorphous group of centre-left Labour MPs who set themselves against the New Labour project - while eschewing “hard left” politics. Ed Miliband’s leadership was a high point for the soft left’s control.
The leader of the opposition’s office - known informally as Loto - is the main source of power in the party. The most core Corbynites either work in or next to Mr Corbyn’s office in the Norman Shaw South building within the Palace of Westminster. Loto has often been at war with the Parliamentary Labour party and Labour HQ, but its decisions are rarely challenged.
Labour Representation Committee
Formed in 2004, the LRC was inspired by an earlier group with the same name, founded in 1900 to “secure representation in parliament for organised labour”. Chaired by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the LRC includes many of his key allies.
Some traditional Labour socialists — including Mr Corbyn — are longtime sceptics of the EU, decrying the bloc as a capitalist club that favours banking cartels over ordinary workers. Others have more pragmatic reasons for leaving the bloc, for example to shore up their working class vote.
Grassroots organisation formed after Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015, blamed for harassing MPs and changing constituency parties.
Activists, councillors and MPs based in Islington, London
Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
Founded in 1973 to ensure Labour MPs followed the will of Labour’s activists and annual conferences, forcing rule changes on mandatory reselection, for example.
Like all politicians Mr Corbyn has supporters in the media. But more so than past leaders, he has a band of devoted commentators who pen columns, debate on rolling news channels and argue on Twitter to further his cause. Although these cheerleaders deny any coordination with the leader’s office, they tend to fervently defend Corbyn and only criticise him lightly.
Stop The War Coalition
Launched in September 2001, just days after the 9/11 terror attacks, as an advocacy group against western foreign policy and the US’s “war on terror”.
Pro-environmental, leftwing party that shares many of Mr Corbyn’s views on economics, foreign policy and domestic policy. It has one MP, Caroline Lucas, but returned seven MEPs in the 2019 European Parliament elections.
Greater London Council
The country’s most important local government body, responsible for running the capital between 1965 and 1986 and led notably by Ken Livingstone with Mr McDonnell as deputy until he was sacked for being too radical.
Both a leftwing magazine and a semi-secret pro-Soviet faction within the Communist Party of Great Britain in the late 70s.
The colloquial name given to followers of Tony Benn, the prominent Labour leftwing minister, MP and campaigner. After serving in Harold Wilson’s governments of the 1960s and 1970s, Benn moved dramatically to the left and advocated radical policies for re-nationalisation and boosting the state’s role. He founded the Socialist Campaign Group to further his ideas. Notable Bennites included Mr Corbyn and Jon Lansman.
A leftwing anarchist movement established in 1982, Class War began as a newspaper and briefly morphed into a political movement.
Communist Party of Great Britain
Dating back to 1920 it has only ever returned four MPs; the last in 1950. Following Mr Corbyn’s rise to leader, the Communist Party of Great Britain urged its followers to back Labour instead.
Southside (Labour HQ)
The party’s headquarters in the Southside office building in Victoria Street in London was seen by Mr Corbyn’s inner circle as a nest of opposition to his project (it was once labelled “Darkside”). Responsible for membership, discipline, media queries and general administration, Southside is now run by senior Corbynites and is loyal to the party leader.