UK’s Labour starts lead­er­ship vote, left-winger ahead


The United King­dom’s main op­po­si­tion Labour Party sends out bal­lot pa­pers Fri­day for its lead­er­ship elec­tion, with Jeremy Cor­byn, a vet­eran so­cial­ist who would move the party sig­nif­i­cantly to the left, fa­vorite to win.

The 66-year-old only en­tered the race as a wild­card but has at­tracted surg­ing grass­roots sup­port, prompt­ing back­ers to adopt the slo­gan “Jez We Can” in an echo of Barack Obama’s 2008 U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign ral­ly­ing call.

But Cor­byn’s poli­cies are closer to Greece’s hard-left Syriza than Obama. Many top Labour fig­ures warn the party un­der him could not take power in a coun­try where elec­tions are typ­i­cally won or lost on the cen­ter ground.

“The party is walk­ing eyes shut, arms out­stretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks be­low,” Tony Blair, Labour’s prime min­is­ter be­tween 1997 and 2007, wrote in Thurs­day’s Guardian news­pa­per.

“It is a mo­ment for a rugby tackle if that were pos­si­ble.”

The re­sults of the elec­tion will be an­nounced on Sept. 12, with over 600,000 mem­bers and sup­port­ers of Labour el­i­gi­ble to vote.

Sup­port­ers of Cor­byn — whose wardrobe of bat­tered jack­ets and trousers con­trasts with the smart suits more com­mon at Westminster — say his un­spun ap­proach and lack of con­nec­tions with fig­ures like Blair give him a fresh voice at a time of deep public cyn­i­cism about pol­i­tics.

He has been an MP since 1983 but has never held a front­line po­lit­i­cal job, in­stead op­pos­ing aus­ter­ity cuts and the 2003 Iraq war, which left Blair deeply un­pop­u­lar, from the back­benches.

Cor­byn also wants to scrap Bri­tain’s nu­clear weapons, re­na­tion­al­ize some in­dus­tries such as the rail­ways and in­volve Ha­mas and Hezbol­lah in peace talks with Is­rael.

“The mood is there and we hap­pen to be in the mid­dle of it,” Cor­byn said in a Guardian in­ter­view this month. “We are not do­ing celebrity, per­son­al­ity, abu­sive pol­i­tics — we are do­ing ideas.”

Other Can­di­dates Lack


The lead­er­ship elec­tion was trig­gered when pre­vi­ous Labour leader Ed Miliband re­signed af­ter May’s gen­eral elec­tion de­feat by Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s Con­ser­va­tives. The party has not held power since 2010.

As well as Cor­byn, there are three other, more cen­trist, can- di­dates — Andy Burn­ham and Yvette Cooper — both slick for­mer min­is­ters un­der Blair and Gor­don Brown — plus back­bench MP Liz Kendall.

Kendall is urg­ing vot­ers to sup­port any­one but Cor­byn, telling BBC ra­dio: “I don’t want to see Labour sub­mit our res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Bri­tish peo­ple as a se­ri­ous party of gov­ern­ment.”

Cooper, mean­while, has said Cor­byn of­fers only “old so­lu­tions to old prob­lems.”

Bri­tain’s two main left-lean­ing news­pa­pers, The Guardian and the Daily Mir­ror, came out in fa­vor of Cooper and Burn­ham re­spec­tively Fri­day.

But even The Guardian noted that all three main­stream can­di­dates had “failed to in­spire, com­ing across to too many mem­bers as a triple-headed em­bod­i­ment of the well-dressed, smooth-talk­ing Westminster class.”

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