Bri­tish elec­tion cam­paign kicks off on no-Brexit day

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

LON­DON (Reuters) — On the day Bri­tain was sup­posed to have left the Euro­pean Union, vot­ers in­stead faced the start of an elec­tion cam­paign, with op­po­si­tion Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn pledg­ing to over­throw a “rigged sys­tem” he said was run by bil­lion­aires and tax dodgers.

After fail­ing to de­liver Brexit by the Oct. 31 dead­line, Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son called the Dec. 12 elec­tion to break what he cast as a po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis that had thwarted Bri­tain’s de­par­ture and un­der­mined con­fi­dence in the econ­omy.

Opin­ion polls sug­gest the elec­tion is John­son’s to lose. His Con­ser­va­tive Party is lead­ing Labour by 15 to 17 per­cent­age points, ac­cord­ing to Ip­sosMORI and YouGov. Yet the over­shad­ow­ing is­sue of Brexit, which has di­vided both ma­jor par­ties and their vot­ers, could con­found con­ven­tional cal­cu­la­tions.

While Brexit frames the elec­tion, with Labour pledg­ing to hold a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on it, it is be­ing fought by two of the most un­con­ven­tional Bri­tish politi­cians of re­cent years who of­fer starkly dif­fer­ent vi­sions for the world’s fifth-largest econ­omy.

In his first ma­jor speech of the cam­paign, Cor­byn said the elec­tion was a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion chance to over­throw what he cast as a cor­rupt elite which prof­ited by ex­ploit­ing work­ers, ly­ing to the pub­lic and pol­lut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

“To­gether, we can pull down a cor­rupt sys­tem and build a fairer coun­try that cares for all,” said Cor­byn, a 70-year-old vet­eran so­cial­ist cam­paigner.

“Even if the rivers freeze over, we’re go­ing out to bring about real change for the many, not the few,” Cor­byn said.

Cor­byn named prom­i­nent bil­lion­aires such as landowner Hugh Grosvenor, Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, Ineos CEO Jim Rat­cliffe, hedge fund man­ager Crispin Odey and U.S. me­dia ty­coon Ru­pert Mur­doch as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Bri­tain’s “rigged sys­tem.”

He pro­posed na­tion­al­iza­tion of rail, mail and wa­ter ser­vices and higher taxes on the bankers who have made Lon­don the pre-em­i­nent in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal.

Ashley, one of the busi­ness­men tar­geted by Cor­byn, hit back, say­ing the Labour leader was “not only a liar but clue­less.”

The first De­cem­ber elec­tion in Bri­tain since 1923 will be one of the hardest to fore­cast in years. Brexit has var­i­ously fa­tigued, en­thused and en­raged vot­ers while erod­ing loy­al­ties to the two ma­jor par­ties.

Ip­sosMORI said the Con­ser­va­tives were on 41 per­cent with Labour on 24 per­cent. But that still leaves a third of the elec­torate up for grabs — and voter poach­ing could de­cide the fi­nal re­sult.

The Lib­eral Democrats want to win over the op­po­nents of Brexit while the Brexit Party is court­ing sup­port­ers of the di­vorce. The Brexit Party is ex­pected to set out some of its strat­egy on Fri­day.

A five-year flurry of two his­toric ref­er­en­dums — on Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence in 2014 and Brexit in 2016 — and two na­tional elec­tions in 2015 and 2017 have de­liv­ered of­ten un­ex­pected re­sults that ush­ered in po­lit­i­cal crises.

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