Monday, June 12, 2017

We have to take Jeremy Corbyn seriously now

Has the time finally come to take Jeremy Corbyn seriously?
The long-time hard-left back-bencher, for many years a thorn in the side of previous UK Labour leader Tony Blair (he is recorded as having voted against his own party some 500 times since becoming an MP in 1983), surprised everyone, not least the Labour Party itself, by winning the party leadership in 2015, with a creditable 60% of the votes. He gave hope to many old (and new) Labour voters who saw a potential return to a more socialistic Labour Party after years of wishy-washy "New Labour" policies under Tony Blair. However, many in the party still refused to accept his leadership or take him seriously, considering him to be unelectable within the contemporary political climate of Britain. And, certainly, he seemed to be doing himself no favours for the longest time. He is not an instantly likeable individual, and his reputation going into last week's election was more as a bumbling ideologue than as a strong and charismatic leader.
Luckily, though, his main opponent in he election, Theresa May, is another such uncharismatic ideologue. Corbyn stumbled out of the gate initially (as also did May), but then seemed to find his feet with a Bernie Sanders-like style. His message revolved around traditional Labour issues like taxing the rich, re-nationalizing the railways, free university tuition, and a "soft" Brexit, that resonated particularly with the under-30s demographic.
In the end, he did not actually defeat May, but he saw Labour increase its seat total by 32 and come within 2% of the Tories in the popular vote, and many on the left are treating the election as a major victory. Certainly, it has reduced the Conservatives to relying on a shaky alliance with the little Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to retain power of any kind. The DUP is a kind of single-issue regional party, not dissimilar to the Bloc Québécois in Canada in that respect, but the DUP is significantly more right wing than even the British Conservative Party, and still opposes same-sex marriage and abortion among other things. It is therefore not an ideal partner, but no other party is willing to work with the Conservatives.
Mr. Corbyn, though, still sees a real possibility of toppling this Conservative alliance and taking the position of Prime Minister for himself, an idea that would have seemed laughable just a few short weeks ago. His first big opportunity will come as early as next week when Theresa May gives her Throne Speech.
Corbyn may have been the clown prince of Labour politics for many years, but he now finds himself in the unlikely role of kingmaker, or even heir apparent. Now, we HAVE to take him seriously.

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