NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

Britain’s Labour heads in a more progressive direction with new anti-austerity Leader

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.

The Guardian notes:

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.

The BBC has a chronol­o­gy of reac­tion to Cor­byn’s win, which is well put-togeth­er.

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.

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