Piers Corbyn was once just an eccentric weatherman but today he’s the high priest of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement who told supporters to launch hammer attacks and burn down MPs’ offices… so why is he still free to incite hate? asks RICHARD KAY
Back in 1984, the International Marxist Group, a ragtag band of one-time communists, Hampstead socialists and student revolutionaries, asked one of its affiliates what winter was going to be like that year.
Britain’s coal miners were planning a strike and their far-Left allies wanted to know whether it would be cold enough for their action to be effective — in other words, if they could bring the country to its knees.
The affiliate they asked was an astrophysicist turned amateur meteorologist called Piers Corbyn, who, alongside an interest in Trotskyite politics, had developed a method of solar-based weather forecasting.
Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the face of the anti-vaccine campaign
Yes, he concluded, presenting his evidence to a National Union of Mineworkers committee. It was indeed going to be a very cold winter.
The NUM were most grateful, and one of their leader Arthur Scargill’s lieutenants later rang Corbyn to ask how long the cold weather would hold. He was told it might last long enough to bring down the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher.
Corbyn’s prediction about the weather was true enough — the winter of 1984-85 was unusually cold. But Mrs Thatcher survived, crushing the strike, reviving the economy and changing the face of British industrial relations.
Today, almost 38 years later, Piers Corbyn’s name is associated with another series of ugly street protests. And, as the face of the anti-vaccine campaign, he is engaged in a cause far more sinister and dangerous than that of the miners whose strike threatened to turn the nation’s lights out.
For this movement, fuelled by conspiracy theories on social media, endangers every one of us by spreading fear and disinformation — and everyone who consequently fails to get vaccinated reduces our ability to control the pandemic effectively.
The boffin with crooked teeth and scruffy hair, once dismissed as former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s harmless if eccentric older brother who made a living from betting on the weather, is the high priest of these protesters — a rabble of Covid-deniers, anti-lockdown fanatics and ‘anti-vaxxers’.
Piers Corbyn (left) was once dismissed as former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s (right) harmless if eccentric older brother who made a living from betting on the weather, is the high priest of these protesters — a rabble of Covid-deniers, anti-lockdown fanatics and ‘anti-vaxxers’
This week, their campaign took a menacing turn when a group led by Corbyn stormed a coronavirus test site in Milton Keynes, shouting abuse at the terrified staff and apparently stealing vital medical supplies, only to dump them in a rubbish bin at the NHS centre.
Videos of the protest, shared on social media, show demonstrators taking over the walk-through testing centre while shouting ‘shame on you’ at staff.
Placard-waving activists were filmed marching through the site, tearing down signs and hurling traffic cones. Staff there, forced to cower, were accused of being ‘fascists’, ‘cowards’ and ‘murderers’.
Footage showed one protester picking up a box of testing kits and other equipment from a marquee, using a plastic container to take them away. She was then filmed dumping the material into a bin outside the centre.
Corbyn, 74, was not among those filmed at the site but was heard speaking through a megaphone. ‘We are peaceful. You are killing people,’ he declared. He claimed the Covid vaccine was a bio-weapon and accused staff of ‘playing Russian roulette with people’.
Spouting such claptrap has elevated him to a place alongside his fellow zealots in the movement, who include David Icke — the serial conspiracy theorist who believes world events are determined by shape-shifting reptilians — and Kate Shemirani, a former nurse who outrageously compared NHS workers to Nazi war criminals. At various times, all three have addressed anti-vaxxer rallies.
They draw their support from a cabal of extremists such as the British offshoot of QAnon, extreme Right-wing backers of Donald Trump, anti-5G technology campaigners and those who believe that Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates has a secret plan to rule the world, using the Covid vaccines to implant microchips into children.
Welcome to the terrifying world of Piers Richard Corbyn, who believes the pandemic is a hoax and claims that the Government wants to impose a ‘new world order’ through its use of lockdowns.
Leading a crowd of anti-vaxxers in Brighton, who forced a vaccination centre to suspend its work, he called those administering the jabs ‘scum’.
At a stroke, he proved that Labour’s last leader was not the only member of the Corbyn family to show spectacular lack of judgment.
Anti-vaccine Auschwitz leaflets the leaflet designed by Piers Corbyn shows Nazi death camp
A few days before Christmas, he was filmed saying to supporters: ‘We’ve got to hammer to death those scum, those scum who have decided to go ahead with introducing new fascism. You’ve got to get a list of them . . . and if your MP is one of them, go to their offices and, well, I would recommend burning them down, OK.’
A day after this brazen provocation, police did act. Corbyn was arrested on suspicion of encouragement to commit arson.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised a police investigation into Corbyn ‘and his mob’ for the invasion of the Milton Keynes test-and-trace centre. ‘The police have my full support to take swift action,’ she declared.
Yet Corbyn remains at liberty, free to continue peddling anti-vax poppycock to his volatile, unpredictable supporters.
When vaccines were first being rolled out, anti-vaxxers were seen as a tiny fringe element. Thanks to Corbyn and his friends, that is no longer true. They have ‘weaponised’ the pandemic and succeeded in sowing doubts about the vaccines in many minds.
Week after week, Corbyn has taken his incoherent, hate-filled message around the country — and has gained support.
For a man proud of his physics heritage — he graduated with a First from Imperial College and took a masters at Queen Mary College — some of his claims are not just nonsensical but unscientific.
The sign ‘Arbeit macht frei’ outside the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz means ‘Work makes you free’
Yet they pale into insignificance compared with the mounting rhetoric that has come from his Stop New Normal campaign.
Take the leaflet he designed that compared the Covid-19 response to experiments carried out in Nazi concentration camps.
It was illustrated with the notorious inscription above the gates of Auschwitz, changing the words from Arbeit macht frei (‘work sets you free’) to ‘vaccines are a safe path to freedom’.
Then there was the airtime given to the impressive-sounding Centre for Research on Globalisation, which, in fact, was funded by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.
Since August 2020, Piers Corbyn has become not just a key speaker for the anti-vaccine brigade but one of their main organisers, throwing himself into street protests with the same enthusiasm he once showed for the squatting campaign that blighted London in the 1970s, when he was ‘manning the barricades’.
More than million people died at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz. Pictured: Women at the train station ramp of the concentration camp in around 1944
In fact, Corbyn, one of four boys born into a Labour-supporting family — his father was an engineer and his mother a science teacher — seems to have spent all his life trying to be noticed, taking part in gimmicky escapades such as the 1975 showdown in Elgin Avenue, when he and 200 squatters occupied three rows of old houses in Maida Vale, West London.
It certainly got him noticed. That same desperate attention-seeking was on display the night he concluded an angry protest close to London’s busy St Thomas’ Hospital on New Year’s Eve a year ago, where he had mobilised some of his 60,000-plus social media followers to join him.
Having harangued passers-by and medical staff clocking off after working punishing hours in the hospital’s ICU, where patients were fighting for breath on the very wards where the Prime Minister had been treated that April, he concluded his performance with an exhibition of fire-eating.
Naturally, someone was on hand to film him spitting out a flammable liquid, which ignited to create a burst of yellow flame.
There has been no let-up since, as his roadshow of obsessed crackpots has criss-crossed the country from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham to Cardiff, Oxford, Truro, Newport and leafy Glastonbury.
Everywhere the message is the same: mass vaccination — which governments and global experts believe is the only way out of contagion and lockdown — is a fraud, and the vaccine itself is a ‘satanic death shot’.
He has taken his distinctive yellow T-shirt with its slogan ‘resist, defy, do not comply’ to High Streets, shopping centres and even the London Underground, where he and his supporters filmed a TikTok-style song-and-dance routine with lyrics as unpleasant as they were puerile.
All this is a long way from Corbyn’s bucolic upbringing in Chetwynd Aston, Shropshire, in a Georgian property set in its own grounds, where he and his siblings roamed the countryside playing games of bicycle polo.
Theirs was a privileged upbringing of prep schools and a selective and now fee-paying grammar — awkward for such committed Left-wingers.
While one elder brother became a flight test specialist for Concorde and another a mining engineer, Piers chose physics.
As baby brother Jeremy was cutting his teeth in the world of politics, Piers was being photographed — in his academic gown — with the Queen during a royal visit to Imperial College.
It was 1969 and after gaining his MSc in astrophysics, he, too, turned to the politics of the Left before emerging as a climate change-sceptic weather forecaster who once called Greta Thunberg an ‘ignorant, brainwashed child’ and tweeted a picture of her beside a swastika.
Unlike his brother, who had an allotment and children to distract him from radical politics, Piers Corbyn has no reset button. He is a loner without children. Although he married a fellow political activist, Marion Roberts, he now appears to live alone in a flat near the Old Kent Road in South London, which was where the police arrested him in the early hours after his ‘burn MPs’ rant.
Impervious to criticism and shunned by former political allies, Piers Corbyn seems utterly relaxed in the company of the conspiracy theory fanatics these days.
Surely it is time to confront the lies and misinformation he spouts, if necessary with a change in the law. He is, of course, entitled to his delusions. But the punishment for uttering such dangerous propaganda and spreading fear should be swift and clear: imprisonment.