After suffering a humiliating and devastating defeat in the parliamentary elections last May, the British Labor Party took stock and did some soul searching. Ed Miliband resigned his position as party leader and several prominent Labor MPs lined up to succeed him.
But none of them counted on a little-known backbencher, an avowed socialist named Jeremy Corbyn.
Indeed, oddsmakers gave Corbyn a 200:1 shot of winning the leadership post. But Labor Party members apparently believe that they key to winning back power is to move to the left — way, way, way to the left. In this, they got their wish in Corbyn. who won a landslide victory in the 3-month long election for Labor Party chief.
He told BBC News he had been a “bit surprised” by the scale of his victory but his campaign had showed “politics can change and we have changed it”.
He will now select his shadow cabinet – but without a string of existing members including Ms Cooper, Tristram Hunt and Rachel Reeves – who have all ruled themselves out.
He has also hinted that he wants to change the format of Prime Minister’s Questions – he faces David Cameron across the despatch box for the first time on Wednesday – suggesting other Labour MPs might get a turn.
The Islington North MP won on the first round of voting in the leadership contest, taking 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast – against 19% for Mr Burnham, 17% for Ms Cooper and 4.5% for Ms Kendall. Former minister and Gordon Brown ally Tom Watson was elected deputy leader.
Corbyn supporters chanted “Jez we did” as he took to the stage, putting on his glasses to deliver his acceptance speech.
The left-winger, who has spent his entire 32 year career in the Commons on the backbenches, promised to fight for a more tolerant and inclusive Britain – and to tackle “grotesque levels of inequality in our society”.
He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.
“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”
He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they were “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted – we have to, and must, change that”.
It’s not surprising that young people would flock to Corbyn. He uses the magic words “diverse,” “injustice,” and “inequality,” which are dog whistles to the youth of the west who have been programmed to respond positively no matter who is making those arguments.
And just who is Jeremy Corbyn and how far left is he really?
The BBC has an excellent rundown of Corbyn’s actual policy platform. It includes, among other things, renationalizing Britain’s railroad system and energy companies, abolishing tuition for British universities, and imposing rent controls to deal with Britain’s affordable housing problem. He’s even open to reopening the coal mines that used to be a big part of Britain’s economy. It’s essentially a throwback to the unreconstructed socialism — the real thing, way beyond Bernie Sanders — of the old-school British Labour Party, which used to be way more into the idea of the government controlling huge sectors of the economy.
Some of Corbyn’s ideas are more appealing than others. Most importantly, he wants to end Britain’s austerity spending cuts, which damaged the UK’s recovery from the Great Recession. He also proposes something called “people’s quantitative easing,” in which the Bank of England would print money to invest in infrastructure projects. This won him praise from the Financial Times‘s Matthew Klein, who described it as a good way to get money into the hands of ordinary Brits and thus stimulate the economy.
Corbyn’s positions on foreign policy are more extreme. He wants to withdraw from NATO, abolish the UK’s nuclear arsenal, and has suggested that Blair could face a war crimes trial for his role in the Iraq War. His position on Ukraine echoes the Kremlin’s:He’s written that Russian expansionism “is not unprovoked” and that “the obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fueling the crisis.”
Notoriously, Corbyn once referred to members of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” and invited Hamas representatives to speak in Parliament. Here are the comments, from a 2009 speech he gave as a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
It will be my pleasure and honor to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking. I’ve also invited our friends from Hamas to come and speak as well. … So far as I’m concerned, that is absolutely the right function of using Parliamentary facilities.
More mainstream Labor politicians are wringing their hands because they don’t think their party is electable with this crazy leftist at the helm. They’re right — probably. The austerity measures taken by Prime Minister David Cameron to rein in spending are nothing compared to the harsh policies imposed on Greece, Spain, and other nations bailed out by the EU. But the Brits are a people who love their government goodies and cutting any benefit is usually very unpopular.
But would Great Britain elect a leader who would take them out of NATO, destroy their nukes, cuddle up with terrorists, and take the economy back to the bad old days of the 1970s and ’80s?
The great British prime minster in those decades was Margaret Thatcher, who was an expert at driving Labor absolutely crazy, Thatcher denationalized industries, shut the unprofitable coal mines, trimmed the budget, cut taxes, and, along with Ronald Reagan, challenged the Soviet Union.
Instead of moderating their policies, Labor doubled down during those years and became even more radical. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s when Tony Blair came on the scene that Labor regained its senses and was able to challenge the Tories for power.
Now, Corbyn wants to return his party to the Disco era. It is believed this will help Labor in Scotland, where the party was absolutely massacred in the election, seeing the number of seats they held fall from 41 to 1. But the effect of proposed radical socialist policies on the rest of the electorate will probably be one of horror.
Labor has elected the man they wanted. Whether Corbyn is the man who can lead them to victory remains to be seen.