Labour Throws Self Off Cliff
The Labour Party’s grassroots have rebelled against its establishment and elected far-left MP Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader. To get a sense of the magnitude of the upset, imagine how it would feel if Bernie Sanders toppled Hillary Clinton and won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.
Now, imagine how the Republicans would feel if that happened, and you’ll get a sense of how good it feels to be a Tory this morning. From the Guardian‘s report:
Corbyn’s victory is all the more remarkable because he started as the rank outsider, behind rivals Burnham, Cooper and Kendall, and only scraped on to the ballot paper when about 15 Labour MPs lent him their votes in order to widen the debate.
Initially, the odds of him winning were around 100-1, but his campaign was boosted when he won the support of two of the biggest unions, Unite and Unison, and became the only candidate to vote against the Conservatives’ welfare bill while the others abstained.
Corbyn’s campaign has also been helped by a surge in new members and supporters who paid £3 to take part in the vote, leading to a near-tripling of those eligible to about 550,000 people. Throughout the campaign, he addressed packed rallies and halls, where he had to give speeches outside the buildings to crowds gathered in the street.
While his supporters will be jubilant about Labour taking a turn to the left, his triumph will be deeply disappointing to the parliamentary party, which overwhelmingly backed other candidates by 210 to 20.
During his three decades in parliament, Corbyn has spent much of his time championing causes such as the Stop the War coalition, campaigning against the private finance initiative and supporting peace efforts in the Middle East.
In the campaign, he promised to give Labour members a much greater say in the party’s policymaking process, in a move that could sideline MPs. His key proposals include renationalisation of the railways, apologising for Labour’s role in the Iraq war, quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, opposing austerity, controlling rents and creating a national education service.
The NYT’s report says, in part:
Mr. Fielding sees Mr. Corbyn’s success as a “sign of alienation from the system as it exists,” adding that his three opponents are viewed by many within the party as “Tory-lite,” a reference to Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives.
The view among many supporters, Mr. Fielding added, was that “voting for Jeremy Corbyn might not work, but at least it is something that we believe in — and maybe it will work.”
That chimes with the experience of the former Labour minister Chris Mullin, when he explained his reservations about Mr. Corbyn to party supporters.
“Gently I pointed out,” Mr. Mullin wrote in The Guardian, “that a party led by Corbyn, saintly and decent man that he is, was likely to be unelectable. Which only met with the riposte that since the other three candidates appear to be unelectable too, why not go for the real thing?”
It’s a fantastic political story. In every interview I’ve seen with Corbyn, he comes off as yes, decent and saintly, as well as gentle, normal, and attractive because he’s the complete opposite of the groomed and programmed Blairite type, as exemplified by this infamous clip of Ed Miliband, the party’s last leader:
UPDATE: Good comment from a reader:
If I were an establishment Tory I wouldn’t be celebrating. I’d be concerned. A left/right condominium, such as existed in Britain until the last election, or that exists in the US today, insures elite control of political discourse. Certain issues, words and debates are always safely out of bounds.
Once that breaks down, as may be happening in Britain, elite control breaks down with it. To the extent that Corbyn is willing to publically attack and offer distinct alternatives to the regnant elite consensus, it will be dangerous for the Tories, who will be left holding the bag for the whole discredited British establishment, from John Major and Tony Blair to Gordon Brown and Cameron himself. Big changes in Labor portend big changes for the Tories, and Tory incumbents should be nervous.
In fat, Corbyn’s rise will probably benefit UKIP more than the Tories. UKIP has been poaching Labor voters alienated by New Labor’s immigration policies – Corbyn approves the migrant flood into British communities, arguing it is a net good. He seems to really believe that, in a vague, decent-chappish way, and he is dead wrong.
Like you, across a gaping political divide I salute Corbyn as an apparently honorable, decent man. The last of the Blairs, Clintons, G. W. Bushes, Camerons, and Obamas of this world can’t come soon enough for me.