Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to the future in Britain?

Jeremy Corbyn's campaign to be Labour leader shows how uncertain party supporters are about the future.

Labour Party, Leaning Left, Looks to Outsider Jeremy Corbyn
Battered in May’s election… Britain’s Labour Party is searching for a new impetus and contemplating a return to its working-class and trade-union roots.

Jeremy Corbyn
In Jeremy Corbyn, a soft-spoken 66-year-old of the hard left, many Labour members think they have found a hero…

Mr. Corbyn finds himself in an odd place: A perennial outsider who has disobeyed Labour Party instructions on how to vote more than 500 times since 1997, he is now considered the favorite to become the party’s new leader.

Labour has been taken aback by “Corbynmania,” with large crowds, passionate social media involvement and news coverage of a trim, bearded vegetarian teetotaler who says what he has believed for the last four decades with a disarming clarity.

His views, which were hard-left Labour in the 1970s and ’80s, are finding new supporters among younger Britons who like his anticapitalist, anti-austerity stance… and who dislike rivals’ poll-driven wobble…

Mr. Corbyn has shown himself to be fluent, articulate and sincere, a sharp contrast with his two main competitors, who seem eager not to offend. Some Americans compare him, in ideology and age, to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a presidential hopeful, but Mr. Corbyn now seems likely to win…

Few expected that Britain’s two largest labor unions, which have a major say in the party’s politics… but they did…

“Whatever the niceness and the current warm glow, Corbyn will be a leader of the hard left, for the hard left, and espousing both general politics and specific positions that the public just are not going to accept in many of the seats that Labour is going to have to win to get back in power,” Mr. Campbell wrote on his blog, urging people to vote for “anybody but Corbyn.”…

Labour may vote for Ms. Cooper or Mr. Burnham. But with a Conservative majority in Parliament, Mr. Corbyn’s many fervent advocates suggest he would be a better opponent to Prime Minister David Cameron at the weekly prime minister’s question time, more able to puncture what some consider Mr. Cameron’s air of casual superiority. Labour, they say, would benefit from new energy, and from younger members coming out of the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.

And Labour would have plenty of time to find a new leader for 2020 — or prove again that the hard left is unelectable.

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