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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:01 am 
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The Bernie Sanders surge in the U.S. has been eclipsed by much bigger news from the U.K. - it’s now been confirmed that the radical left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has been elected as leader of the British Labour Party with a massive 60% of the vote. Corbyn’s victory came out of left-field in both senses of the word - despite serving in Parliament since 1983 has been an outsider his entire political life and has never held a ministerial position before. Indeed, he was as much of a critic of the New Labour Blair-Brown Government as a supporter of it.

Corbyn is a self-described socialist, and has called for the end of austerity, raising taxes on the rich, and the re-nationalisation of key industries such as energy and transport. In his first newspaper article as leader, he wrote that “we understand aspiration and we understand that it is only collectively that our aspirations can be realised”. He has criticised the EU for being too pro-business. He believes that university education should be free to the end-user, and has called for the creation of a National Education Service to mirror the National Health Service. On foreign policy, he has advocated for the reformation of NATO, blaming its aggression for the Ukraine Crisis. He supports unilateral nuclear disarmament, and has been criticised in the past for his willingness to meet and hold discussions with representatives of the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah. Corbyn is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He currently serves as the national chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

He has been a controversial even if little-known figure for decades (I hadn’t heard of him until he launched his bid for the party leadership), and his campaign was not free from scandal, either. For example, it emerged that some Conservative newspapers had called on their readers to join the Labour Party and vote for Corbyn to guarantee a Conservative landslide at the next general election (based on the Michael Foot and George McGovern precedents, to use an example from both sides of the Atlantic). Nonetheless Corbyn won a majority of the vote from existing party members as well as new ones.

A lot will be written over the coming months on what Sanders and Corbyn mean for progressive politics in the English-speaking world. Although I wouldn’t take the comparison between the two men too far - Corbyn is much more hard-line than Sanders, and the rank-and-file members of the British Labor Party are much angrier at the moment than their Democratic counterparts. The Labour Party was left in a state of crisis after it underperformed even the most pessimistic expectations in May’s election, and the technocratic moderate New Labour leadership has taken much of the blame (in addition to residual anger over Blair policies like the Iraq War). In contrast, the Democrats have won two presidential elections and progressives in the U.S. are generally at least lukewarm supporters of both President Obama and his likely successor to the Democratic ticket, Hillary Clinton. That is the main reason why I don’t expect Sanders to win the Democratic nomination as McGovern did in 1972.

And the next British general election is not going to need to be held until 2020, and as the Conservatives have a majority I think it likely the Government will run a full term. Corbyn may have crashed and burned by then.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:27 pm 
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Coincidentally, I was just reading an interesting blog post on Corbyn's Leadership win by the always thoughtful and opinionated Tolkien scholar, David Bratman:

http://kalimac.blogspot.com/2015/09/has ... opped.html

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:08 pm 
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Thanks for the Bratman link, I broadly feel that the comparison between the two was essentially another media invention to try to ridicule Corbyn.

The raw numbers around the Corbyn victory are very impressive he won with 59% of the vote - that is a bigger mandate than either Cameron or Blair got from their parties. That is after 3 months of completely negative press, ranging from the hysterical(Sun) through to the measured but snide - (Guardian) I think the cogent factors are as follows.

1. Cobryn has massive support from the young, especially the so-called generation rent
2. He is huge support from the diesnfranchised - who traditionally don't vote
3. He has support from the people who realise that austerity means redistribution of wealth from rich to poor.
4. He has support for people who ask why the richest 1000 families in the country have more that 47% of the wealth in the country, actually pay proportionately less of their income in tax that the poorest people.

Corbyn is not the weird beardie the press have painted him out to be, his shadow cabinet has been very cutely selected, including a shadow chancellor who is from the real hard left - who will act as the attack dog.

Personally I am delighted, I will be rejoining the Labour Party, because it now speaks for me and the things that I believe in, and it is prepared to lance the boil which has infected Britain over the past 40 years

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:50 am 
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There does seem to be a groundswell that has been triggered by the reelection of the Tory government. The people at the bottom of the socio-economic graph have felt the pressure increase to intolerable levels and something just has to give.

I'm seeing something equivalent in my children's generation (17 - 24) in Australia, a large proportion of whom are making revolutionary noises (Ah, youth!). They swing between "boycott the process" (for which I blame Russell Brand) to "get out on the streets". The disaffection and anger are palpable, but as I keep repeating to him, decisions are made by those who turn up. If they want to make change, they must engage in the political process in a hands-on capacity.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:08 am 
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Corbyn has now unveiled his shadow cabinet (for American readers, this is not a magical object from Harry Potter but is the term for the Opposition equivalent of the government ministry). In my view, the most critical appointment is the Shadow Chancellor, or the frontbencher responsible for the Treasury, as all leaders who do not have strong economic credentials themselves need someone in the role who can put forward the party’s economic agenda.

Corbyn has appointed his close ally, John McDonnell, whose views are even more extreme than his. I wasn’t familiar with McDonnell, but looking at his policy positions and history of past statements I actually didn’t think that there were people like that still in politics. He has praised the IRA, made comments implying that Margaret Thatcher should have been assassinated, lists ‘fermenting the overthrow of capitalism’ as one of his hobbies, and has called for the nationalisation of banks without compensation (in other words, if you own any shares in a bank, the government seizes them and you get nothing). I’m obviously not in agreement with Corbyn or McDonnell on most of their positions, but I cannot see how this is anything but a profoundly unserious exercise on any terms. Obviously Corbyn is not pitching his platform to corporate Britain, but he will need to sell it to small business owners and middle-class shareholders, and I can’t see the current front-bench doing that.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 2:25 pm 
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Wow, that does seem like an exercise in poor judgment.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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