Shortly after his first wife Jane Chapman walked out, Corbyn encouraged his friend Keith Veness and Steve Hull, another political ally, to join him posting leaflets around a council estate.
At about 11.30am he announced ‘We need to collect more leaflets’, and drove them back to his flat. The three walked in to discover a naked woman on the bed. Diane Abbott, Corbyn proudly announced, was his new girlfriend. ‘He wanted us to see her in his bed,’ recalled Veness. ‘She was shocked when we entered.’
Abbott, who quickly wrapped herself in a duvet, was the antithesis of a white, middle-class English woman. Born to Jamaican immigrants in 1953, she went to a grammar school in London, then to Cambridge.
Disappointed lover: Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott began their relationship in the 1970s
As the first female black student from a state school at Newnham College, she enjoyed a hectic social life and became firmly hard Left, passionately committed to the class struggle.
After graduating, she began working as a race relations officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties. Belying the human rights group’s name, her colleagues rummaged through her desk and found her private diary. One entry recorded her sexual fantasy of being manhandled by her lover Corbyn – ‘a bearded Fenian and NUPE national organiser’.
There were also descriptions of a motorbike holiday with him around France and a passionate romp in a Cotswolds field, which she described as her ‘finest half-hour’.
Diane Abbott became passionately committed to the class struggle
Corbyn’s passion for Abbott ended any hope Jane Chapman might have had that their relationship could be restored. He had found a political soul mate who regarded Britain as the country that ‘invented racism’, and echoed his praise for the IRA. Feisty and, in her early years, good-looking, Abbott even persuaded Corbyn to change his habits to suit her, at least for a while: he enjoyed social evenings with her and friends at restaurants and dinner parties.
Abbott secured a job as a TV producer but fretted that Corbyn and Chapman were still meeting at Haringey Council.
Chapman recalled a ‘nervous, tense and slightly hostile’ Abbott knocking on her door one evening, and making her demands clear. ‘Get the hell out of here,’ said Abbott. ‘You’re in the media and everywhere and I want you out of town.’
‘I can’t,’ replied Chapman, ‘I’ve been elected to office.’
Later, Chapman explained: ‘She wanted a clear run. I was in the media a lot then because of my political work and she wished I wasn’t.’
Abbott also grew fed-up with Corbyn’s way of life; just as he had ignored Chapman, he began ignoring her.
At 27, she wanted marriage and eventually children. Corbyn wanted neither.
One morning, Bernie Grant, the firebrand Tottenham MP, called Keith Veness. ‘Diane’s had enough of Jeremy. She’s moving out. Come and give us a hand.’
Firebrand Tottenham MP Keith Veness arrived Corbyn’s flat, finding its rooms strewn with papers and clothing
Veness arrived in a large van at Corbyn’s flat, finding its rooms strewn with papers and clothing.
‘It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t come home for two weeks,’ said Abbott defensively.
She, Grant and Veness set about packing away her things.
Suddenly the door opened, and in walked Corbyn. ‘Hello, mate,’ he said to Grant. Then he saw Veness carrying out Abbott’s possessions. After hearing why the two men were there, he walked away without comment; he was off to a meeting, he said.
Appalled by the way Abbott had been treated, Grant chased after Corbyn.
‘Get real,’ he said, knowing full well that Corbyn remained insult-proof.
Later, Corbyn would recall: ‘Diane always says to me, “You learned everything you know in Shropshire, and unfortunately you’ve forgotten none of it.” ’
- Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot For Power, by Tom Bower, is published by William Collins on February 21 at £20. Offer price £16 (20 per cent discount) until February 24. Pre-order at mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15. Spend £30 on books and get FREE premium delivery.