Piers Corbyn makes a prediction: winter is coming

The Labour leader's brother, Piers Corbyn, is shunned by other weather forecasters. But people are still buying is predictions.


Piers Corbyn in 1975

In September, when Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour party and led a rousing rendition of the Red Flag in a Westminster pub, I happened to notice one man "singing with particular pride", says Tim Adams in The Guardian. It was Piers Corbyn, the new leader's brother, who has led "a parallel career of stubborn principle to his younger sibling". Both, it is true, have flirted with Marxism and "quasi-Trotskyist" groups, but when it comes to the weather, they are at loggerheads.

While Jeremy embraces the conventional view that the earth is warming because of man-made emissions, Piers a lifelong meteorologist takes the opposite tack. Not only is he convinced that we're actually heading for a mini ice age, but he thinks the science of man-made climate change is a dastardly plot dreamt up, originally, by Margaret Thatcher as part of her "devious plan to deindustrialise Britain and defeat the miners once and for all".

Corbyn's view that changes in the Earth's climate and weather are dictated primarily by cyclical activity on the surface of the sun (and not by carbon dioxide emissions) is an unfashionable one, says The Independent. Needless to say, he's a pariah at the Met Office (an organisation he "abhors"), but he has won some surprising supporters, including the London mayor, Boris Johnson.

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As the latter noted in The Daily Telegraph in 2010, when the country was in the grip of an arctic winter: "Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again." No wonder "serious business people are starting to invest in his forecasts".

Corbyn's business track record is actually fairly patchy (see below). But, like his brother, he has a faith that "if he states his beliefs often enough, his day will surely come", says The Guardian. The pair, and two further brothers (one a former flight-test engineer for Concorde; the other a mining engineer), enjoyed an unusually productive upbringing: "The house was run down and we boys had to do the repairs."

Corbyn spent most of his free time in the garden building meteorology equipment. After university, he kept tinkering with his solar-based forecasts and calculations. His big coup came with the 1984-1985 miners' strike. The National Union of Miners "wanted to know whether it was going to be cold enough for the strike to bring Britain to its knees", he recalls. Corbyn's prediction turned out to be right: that winter was unusually cold. But, to his regret, it didn't stop the strike folding anyway.

So what's his forecast for next month? "Plenty of snow coming," he replies. On a spring-like January day on Borough High Street, it doesn't seem that likely. But, as Corbyn (and his little brother) know only too well, stranger things have happened.

His record as an investor and entrepreneur

People still occasionally buy Corbyn's forecasts, but he is "a crank", says James Bloodworth on the LeftFootForward blog. WeatherAction makes predictions up to nine months ahead well beyond the Met Office period. But Corbyn "won't submit his (no doubt meticulous) methods" to peer review. So "nobodyin the mainstream scientific community takes him remotely seriously" and "his track record... is mixed, to say the least".

Nonsense, says "Maverick Man" on his blog. Having carried out a six-month analysis of Corbyn's forecasts in 2012, "there is definitely something to his ability to make weather forecasts weeks ahead that beat anything standard meteorologists do". He was typically "about 70% accurate".

One thing we can all agree upon, says Simon Usborne in The Independent, is that he "defies categorisation". Having made a few unguarded revelations about Jeremy's private life in the latter's leadership campaign, he's become notably discreet. True, there's always a risk that he could "compromise" Jeremy in a debate about energy or emissions, but, as political brothers go, he's probably more of an asset than a liability. Who knows, he might even one day follow John Major's "brilliantly eccentric brother", Terry Major-Ball, into the nation's heart.