After suffering a devastating defeat at the UK’s general election, Britain’s Labour Party is on course to elect the most left-wing leader in its 115-year history.
Jeremy Corbyn, the member of parliament for Islington North, has spent much of his career happily protesting for favored causes from the backbenches. But if the latest YouGov poll is to be believed, the veteran left winger is within striking distance of taking control of Britain’s main opposition party.
On first preference votes, Corbyn is on 43 percent with his nearest rival Andy Burnham at 26 percent. After Ed Miliband’s resignation from the Labour leadership in May, Corbyn got into the race ostensibly to raise issues such as austerity and public ownership.
At the start of the process, the north London MP couldn’t even muster the necessary number of MPs to nominate him for the leadership. Supporters of other candidates backed him at the last minute to ensure the left of the party had a voice in the debate.
But in an abnormally lackluster leadership contest, Corbyn’s radical views have captured the imagination of Labour activists and he his poll ratings have soared.
A passionate supporter of scrapping Britain’s nuclear weapons, Corbyn has been involved for many years with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. On foreign policy, Corbyn has been an outspoken critic of Israel and has described terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends.” When challenged about these comments on Channel 4 News Corbyn snapped at the interviewer.
On economic policy, Corbyn is far to the left of his Labour colleagues and makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate. Corbyn refuses to consider cuts to government spending, arguing isntead for a seven percent increase in national insurance contributions for those earning $78,000 and a 2.5 percent tax increase on corporations.
With reminisces of the 1970s, Corbyn has argued for the renationalization of the railways and utilities. In his first major economic speech of the leadership campaign the Islington MP suggested the remit of the Britain’s central bank be changed from targetting inflation at 2 percent to facilitating investment in infrastructure.
Against the advice of almost every economist to have ever studied the subject, Corbyn is keen supporter of rent controls. Labour’s most electorally successful leader, Tony Blair, warned his party they would not win power from this “traditional leftist platform.”
Analysing Labour’s defeat, Blair told the think tank Progress Labour’s mistake at the last election was thinking “the centre ground had shifted left.” Blair and many of his admirers inside the Labour Party are convinced a Corbyn victory would mean certain defeat at the next election. The Labour Party hasn’t won a general election without Tony Blair since 1976.