Veteran socialist elected leader of Britain's Labour

Mr Jeremy Corbyn vowed to fight for justice for the poor and downtrodden, and slammed the Conservative government for burdening the poor.
Mr Jeremy Corbyn vowed to fight for justice for the poor and downtrodden, and slammed the Conservative government for burdening the poor.PHOTO: REUTERS

Corbyn's win draws warnings that a return to its socialist roots will make party unelectable

LONDON • Mr Jeremy Corbyn, an admirer of Karl Marx, was elected leader of Britain's opposition Labour party yesterday, a victory that may make a British European Union exit more likely and which, one former Labour prime minister has warned, could leave the party unelectable.

"Things can, and they will, change," Mr Corbyn, 66, said in a victory speech which began with criticism of the British media for intrusive reporting and ended with a vow to achieve justice for the poor and downtrodden.

"I say 'thank you', in advance, to us all working together to achieve great victories, not just electorally for Labour, but emotionally for the whole of our society to show we don't have to be unequal, it doesn't have to be unfair, poverty isn't inevitable," he said.

Mr Corbyn won 59.5 per cent of the ballots cast, or 251,417 votes, in the leadership contest, winning in the first round. When the results were announced, he was cheered and hugged, even by some of his rivals. Mr Tom Watson, who took on media mogul Rupert Murdoch over phone hacking, was elected deputy leader in a separate ballot.

Mr Corbyn struck a chord with many Labour supporters by repudiating the pro-business consensus of former leader Tony Blair. Instead, he has offered wealth taxes, nuclear disarmament and ambiguity about EU membership.

BASHING TORIES

The Tories have used the economic crisis of 2008 to impose terrible a burden on the poorest people in this country.

MR JEREMY CORBYN, elected leader of Britain's opposition Labour party, on the failings of the government

"The Tories have used the economic crisis of 2008 to impose a terrible burden on the poorest people in this country," he told supporters.

"I am fed up with the social cleansing of London by this Tory government," he said of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.

Mr Corbyn defeated two former Labour ministers, Ms Yvette Cooper and Mr Andy Burnham, and Ms Liz Kendall, who is regarded as the heir to Mr Blair.

A left-winger and parliamentary veteran with a long history of voting against his own party, Mr Corbyn triumphed by promising to increase government investment through money-printing and renationalising vast swathes of the economy.

The prospect of a return to the party's socialist roots has drawn stark warnings that it will be annihilated in 2020 national elections by a British public that, in May, re- elected Mr Cameron for a second term on a promise to cut spending.

Some party members have said that Labour could split or that Mr Corbyn would face a revolt from some lawmakers. But, by promising to increase, rather than cut, government investment, he has found favour among disillusioned young voters and socialists who had drifted away from the party, which has spent nearly two decades battling for the political centre ground.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'Veteran socialist elected leader of Britain's Labour'. Print Edition | Subscribe