This is a big, big deal. Via The Wall Street Journal:
Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left former union organizer, was elected the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party on Saturday, a result that signals a more socialist direction for the country’s main opposition and could herald a realignment of British politics.
The 66-year-old lawmaker, long on the margins of British politics, secured a convincing victory with 59.5% of votes, winning 170,955 more than his closest rival. Mr. Corbyn’s antiausterity, antiwar and egalitarian message energized thousands of grass-roots supporters who had become disillusioned with the party.
Mr. Corbyn will now have to try to unite a party that is deeply divided, a situation laid bare by infighting during the leadership contest. Following the party’s crushing defeat in May’s general election, Labour members and politicians have battled over whether to tack left or claim the center ground in the footsteps of Tony Blair, its longest-serving prime minister.
He won with nearly 59.5% of first-preference votes, beating rivals Andy Burnham, who trailed on 19%, and Yvette Cooper who received 17%. The “Blairite” candidate Liz Kendall came last on 4.5%.
Minutes after his victory, Corbyn said the message is that people are “fed up with the injustice and the inequality” of Britain.
“The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fightback gathers speed and gathers pace,” he said.
Tom Watson was elected as the party’s deputy leader.
Corbyn will need to form a new leadership team, because seven Labour frontbenchers led by Cooper (evidently sulking after her loss) have declared they will not serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. (A shadow cabinet consists of those leaders of the Queen’s Opposition who would step into ministerial roles if the opposition were to become the governing party as a result of snap elections.)
This could be for the best… it will allow Corbyn to form a leadership team that believes in his vision and direction for the Labour Party.
Corbyn’s victory is a profound moment in British politics. It signals that Labour is finally stepping out of the shadow of Tony Blair and will more aggressively challenge the Tories of the United Kingdom, led by current Prime Minister David Cameron. Labour’s failure to distinguish itself from Cameron’s austerity policies arguably contributed to its very poor showing in the last election under Ed Miliband.
Miliband, incidentally, is calling on his party to unite around Corbyn, saying that is appropriate for Corbyn’s rivals to respect his big mandate.
Labour’s establishment did not want Corbyn, and overwhelmingly preferred other candidates, but the parliamentary faction of the party was overruled by the party’s base. That is a great thing to see. The establishment needed a kick in the pants.
The Guardian’s report on Corbyn’s victory sums up some of his views on the issues, which we’ll see him speak to in Westminster in the weeks to come:
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.
Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson. We wish them the best as they assume the mantle of the Labour Party. At last, Labour has twenty-first century leaders who dignify the legacies of legends like Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson.