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Jeremy Corbyn's election: Labour takes a sharp Left

Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Britain’s Opposition leader has significance for Left politics the world over.

editorials Updated: Mar 07, 2017 18:39 IST
Hindustan Times
Jeremy Corbyn,Pro-left,Labour party
Jeremy Corbyn smiles as he leaves the stage after he is announced as the new leader of The Labour Party during the Labour Party Leadership Conference in London. (AP Photo)

So Britain now has an old fashioned JNU-style leftist Labour party leader in Jeremy Corbyn who will confront the pro-business Conservative government led by posh figures such as David Cameron and George Osborne.

Mr Corbyn’s emergence overturns received wisdom about the appeal of radical politics in this day and age — when establishment discourses are confined to a narrow centrist, technocratic space, marginalising searching diagnoses of high levels of social inequality.

As Mr Corbyn argues, Labour strove too much to be acceptable to the Tory-defined consensus on the economy through its Blairite turn and failed to speak convincingly about the class divide, which resonates strongly among voters amid the austerity imposed by the Conservatives.

Mr Corbyn’s distinctive socialist platform, his incorruptible image, his quirky irreverence for the Labour hierarchy having defied the party whip more than 500 times since 2001, and his championing of a range of causes from Apartheid, Palestine and nuclear disarmament fired the imagination of the Labour supporters who evidently struggled to relate to the Blairite clones who were opposing him.

There are lot of questions about his future. Can he run the Labour without the top-down approach that he prefers, even though it is a staple for mass organisations? Can he win against Osborne, the most likely Tory leader in 2020’s election? Analysts point out that the Labour gained an extra million votes in England during 2010-2015, even if it ultimately lost to the Tories and was vanquished in Scotland by the Scottish National Party.

Critics counter that his policies of taxing the wealthy, renationalising parts of British economy, and printing money to fund spending policies are likely to scare away the more policy-oriented voter who thinks Mr Corbyn’s sums don’t add up.

That even The Guardian did not endorse him is a telling sign of his believability. A win, however, may not be a paramount concern for the detached sort like Mr Corbyn, who is keen on shifting the centre of British politics to the Left through his radical ideas. He will be opposed by his own party colleagues, the press and the Tories.

The Left globally will watch that intense battle keenly — absorb and hope.

First Published: Sep 13, 2015 22:26 IST