Radical change: Corbyn's win brings hope to the Left worldwide

His emergence overturns received wisdom about the appeal of radical politics in this day and age.

editorials Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:52 IST
Hindustan Times
Jeremy Corbyn,Labour Party,socialism
The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn waves after making his inaugural speech at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London. (Reuters)

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. 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 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.

Corbyn's distinctive socialist platform, his incorruptible image (once putting in an MPs expenses claim of only £8.95 for a printer cartridge), his quirky irreverence for 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 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 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 general election? Analysts point out that 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 the UK economy, and printing money to fund spending policies are likely to scare away the more policy-oriented voter who think his sums don't add up. That even the venerable 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 Corbyn, who is keen on shifting the Centre of UK politics to the Left through his radical ideas. He will be viciously opposed by his own party colleagues, the press and Tories. The Left globally will watch that intense battle keenly--absorb and hope.

First Published: Sep 12, 2015 17:22 IST