Published: 18 November, 2010
by JOHN GULLIVER
• IT takes all sorts to climb mountains, I realised on Tuesday evening when Lord Chris Smith became a Freeman of Islington at a Town Hall ceremony.
He turns out to be a member of the Socialist Climbing Club – a politically motley crew, according to a speech by Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn.
Known as the “Red Rope”, club members include stalwarts of the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Labour Party.
Attached by a red rope, Corbyn wondered whether they discussed the “Marxist theory of rock climbing” as they climbed Scotland’s 283 3,000ft-high mountains, a required feat to qualify for membership of a select club known as “Bagging the Munros”.
Adventurous Lord Smith became a Munro member in 1989, five years after he had established himself as the first MP to come out as gay. He is better known as the cabinet member who persuaded colleagues to grant free entrance to art galleries and museums.
Corbyn’s speech drew laughter but the loudest cheer – from a mixed audience of Labour and Lib Dem councillors as well as Town Hall staff – rang out when he praised Lord Smith for his “brilliant” speech against the Iraq war in 2003. It struck me that while Corbyn is often side-lined as a predictable left-winger, he clearly has deep affection for a man who would often oppose him on most causes, but on war revealed himself as a fellow humanist.