Saviour or dis­as­ter?

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT -

UK’s Labour di­vided on Cor­byn vic­tory

LIVER­POOL, (AP): SOFT-SPO­KEN SO­CIAL­IST Jeremy Cor­byn is the an­tithe­sis of Don­ald Trump.

But the Bri­tish politi­cian – re­sound­ingly re-elected leader of the op­po­si­tion Labour Party yes­ter­day – is rid­ing the same wave of anti-cen­trist sen­ti­ment that’s pro­pel­ling the brash US Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Both are po­lit­i­cal out­siders who have un­set­tled their par­ties and en­er­gised their large fan bases, but whose abil­ity to win power re­mains un­proven.

To sup­port­ers like Carel Bux­ton, a re­tired school prin­ci­pal from Lon­don, the 67year-old long-time left­ist Cor­byn is “au­then­tic”.

“Peo­ple in this coun­try are sick to death of well-spo­ken, booted-and-suited slimy politi­cians,” she said.


But to de­trac­tors like John McTer­nan, a for­mer se­nior ad­viser to Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, Cor­byn “is noth­ing other than a com­plete and ut­ter dis­as­ter for the Labour Party”.

Last year, Cor­byn, a long­time back­bench law­maker, was the shock choice of party mem­bers to head Labour, which


has lost two suc­ces­sive gen­eral elec­tions to the Con­ser­va­tives.

He has strong sup­port among lo­cal ac­tivists, but many Labour leg­is­la­tors be­lieve his left-wing views are out of step with pub­lic opin­ion, and tried to un­seat him.

It didn’t work. Af­ter a months-long lead­er­ship bat­tle, Cor­byn won al­most 62 per cent of the more than 500,000 votes cast by Labour mem­bers and sup­port­ers.

His chal­lenger, Welsh law­maker Owen Smith, got 38 per cent in a re­sult an­nounced yes­ter­day at the party’s con­fer­ence in Liver­pool, north­west Eng­land.

Cor­byn’s mar­gin of vic­tory is larger than a year ago, but he heads a party that’s deeply di­vided about whether it val­ues po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­ples over gain­ing power.

Ac­cept­ing his vic­tory to a stand­ing ova­tion from del­e­gates, Cor­byn pledged to work for unity.

“We have much more in com­mon than that which di­vides us,” he said. “As far as I’m con­cerned, let’s wipe that slate clean from to­day and get on with the work we’ve got to do as a party.”


Like Bernie San­ders, who shares some of Cor­byn’s out­look, or Trump – who def­i­nitely doesn’t – Cor­byn is a sign of how the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre ground has eroded.

Cor­byn spent more than 30 years as a Labour law­maker, never hold­ing a se­nior role and best known for his fre­quent re­bel­lions against the cen­tre-left party’s lead­er­ship. When he ran for leader, few ex­pected him to win. But he was pro­pelled to vic­tory by thou­sands of new mem­bers who joined Labour to back him.

For Cor­byn sup­port­ers, it was a chance to re­pu­di­ate the cen­trist “new Labour” vi­sion of Blair, who won three Bri­tish elec­tions start­ing in 1997 but be­came too cosy with big busi­ness for some tastes and took Bri­tain into the un­pop­u­lar US-led Iraq War.

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