“We don’t have to be unequal. It does not have to be unfair. Poverty isn’t inevitable. Things can — and they will — change.” The white-haired socialist addressed the crowd to resounding cheers. The next morning, Bernie Sanders woke up to the news that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected as the new leader of the Labour Party. In a stunning move by Britain’s opposition party, nearly 60 percent of Labour Party members voted on September 12 to elect the democratic socialist to power.
At age 66, Corbyn has spent the last 32 years in Parliament as a radical leftist. The parallels between Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are undeniable. Like Sanders, Corbyn was an unlikely candidate, seeking a platform to discuss issues of inequality and corruption. Corbyn’s proposals include nationalization of energy and rail companies, military spending cuts, and increased asylum for refugees.
Labour’s move leftward is a response to changes in British conservative politics. Under David Cameron’s leadership, the Conservative Party has moved to the center, taking action on climate change and supporting gay marriage. Corbyn’s victory is a decisive shift from Labour’s politics of the 1990s and early 2000s. Followers of Tony Blair’s moderate “New Labour” movement advocate a centrist approach to combat the Conservatives’ new positions. Now, Labour has decided to abandon the center ground. In August, Blair warned the Labour Party would suffer “annihilation” with Corbyn in power.
Corbyn’s victory is particularly surprising considering the Labour Party’s devastating result in the General Election under Ed Miliband or “Red Ed.” Miliband narrowly won the last leadership election in 2010, thanks to the support of the trade unions. Miliband resigned in May after leading his party to its worst defeat in thirty years. By electing Corbyn, the Labour Party may be dooming itself again.
As Leader of the Opposition, Corbyn is poised to challenge David Cameron in the 2020 General Election. David Miliband, former British Foreign Secretary, warned Britain will become a “one-party state” with Corbyn as Labour leader—a state in which only the Conservative Party can win elections. Corbyn is certainly not a traditional candidate. Apart from his radical views, he does not have a college degree, and he has been married three times. Many expect there to be an internal election before the race for Prime Minister to replace Corbyn with a more electable candidate.
Corbyn already faces disunity in his party. Many Labour Party members of Parliament did not vote for him. His largest support came from young Labour Party members. Under new election guidelines, any Labour Party member can vote for the party leader. A flood of Corbyn supporters, many of whom are affiliated with unions, registered to vote for only three pounds, increasing the voting body by 400,000 members. Several Labour party officials have already announced they will not serve under Corbyn.
Unsurprisingly, Bernie Sanders has said he is “delighted” by the election result. Corbyn’s election is a triumph for anti-establishment politics. Though the United States is unlikely to elect a President Sanders, his candor and passion have garnered him more popularity than at first seemed possible. A similar passion secured victory for Corbyn in his leadership bid, and even if his reign is short-lived, he now has an opportunity to make greater waves in his call for progressive change.