Jeremy Corbyn seizes UK opposition leadership
Britain’s Labour Party elects veteran left-wing lawmaker as leader
Britain’s opposition Labour Party took a decisive move towards the left on Saturday by electing a Jeremy Corbyn, who has never previously held a role in government.
In a result that few observers would have predicted three months ago, Jeremy Corbyn became the latest in a line of Labour leaders that has included Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.
He was elected decisively in the first round of the contest, in which he secured 251,417 votes, i.e. 59.5 percent of the total votes cast.
In a parallel contest, left-wing backbencher Tom Watson was elected the party’s deputy leader.
Taking the stage to chants of "Jez we did” from his supporters in the hall, Corbyn used his maiden speech to attack the governing Conservatives, also known as Tories, for the huge degrees of inequality he said were emerging in British society.
"The Tories have used the economic crisis of 2008 to impose a terrible burden on the poorest people in this country. It’s not right, it’s not necessary, and it’s got to change," he said. "We need an economic strategy that improves people’s lives, that expands our economy, that reaches out to care for everyone."
"You can’t do that if you do nothing about grotesque levels of inequality in our society,” he added.
He praised each of his rival candidates in turn and welcomed the hundreds of thousands of new Labour members "fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty” who had joined the party since May’s general election.
He also confirmed he would make his first public appearance on Saturday, at a rally in Central London, to demonstrate in support of the refugees fleeing conflict zones.
The victory would have been considered unlikely just three months ago because the 66-year-old Corbyn only scraped enough nominations from fellow parliamentarians to appear on the ballot minutes before the deadline.
Many of his sponsors had made clear they disagreed with the lawmaker’s politics but wanted to allow the party to have a broad ideological debate.
But Corbyn’s straight-talking, non-confrontational manner proved popular among party members and supporters, many of whom signed up to join Labour after the party’s heavy electoral defeat in May.
The surge in registrations over the summer saw half a million people become eligible to vote in the contest, far surpassing the 187,000 Labour members at the time of the general election.
Many were registered supporters who paid a 3-pound ($4) supporter fee to vote in the leadership contest.
As the result became more and more likely, senior Labour figures lined up to warn of the dangers his leadership would pose.
They included Blair, architect of three general election victories for Labour, who warned that Jeremy Corbyn’s "Alice-in-Wonderland” politics failed to understand why the party lost in May. Blair said the loss was in fact dur to the fact that it was considered anti-business and too left-wing.
A significant portion of Corbyn’s support came from trade unions and registered supporters, many of who are traditional supporters of the Labour left. His lead among party members was narrower, but still decisive.
Foreign policy is expected to become the greatest area of contention under Corbyn’s leadership. He had proposed in the past Britain that Britain leave the NATO military alliance and the EU, although he has dampened his position over the course of the campaign.
But he remains staunchly opposed to British airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, over which a parliamentary vote is expected later this month.
May’s election was a heavy defeat for Labour. The party failed to broaden its appeal beyond its inner-city strongholds in England and lost all but one of its 41 seats in Scotland.
Last Modified: 2015-09-13 13:34:49
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