Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is Jeremy Corbyn The UK's Bernie Sanders?


As we mentioned yesterday, the right-of-center, Wall Street-owned New Dems are making a play to assert themselves within the Democratic congressional caucus. They are following in the footsteps of the Tony Blair New Labour wing of the UK's Labour Party, which took over the party but has more recently lost support by inching further and further right. The New Labour dominance may be ending, though. Labour Party leadership elections-- in the wake of the 2015 general election defeat and the subsequent resignation of Ed Miliband-- begin Friday (August 14) and close September 10. And the front runner is much-admired leftist icon and establishment outsider Jeremy Corbyn of Islington.

From the first day he announced he would run, he said he would campaign on a "clear anti-austerity platform." Obviously, this alarmed the New Labour faction.
The poll suggests that Mr Corbyn has built up at 32 percent lead over Mr Burnham, up from 17 percent in the most recent YouGov poll one month ago.

Mr Corbyn is now on 53 percent, while Mr Burnham has slipped to 21. The survey also shows that Yvette Cooper has also slipped by two points to 18 percent. Liz Kendall [a New Labour/Blair loyalist], seen as the most right-wing candidate on the ballot, is on just 8 percent.

Six out of ten of Mr Corbyn's supporters were newly registered voters-- people who have signed up for a basic £3 Labour membership which allows them to take part in the leadership bid.

This will raise concerns among party members and supporters of other candidates over the election process. It has been suggested that members of far-left parties, the Green party and even the Conservative party have paid the £3 fee to ensure that Mr Corbyn wins the leadership.

Mr Corbyn is most popular among Trade Unions sign ups, with 67 percent of them supporting his bid. 55 percent of all new sign ups also back him, while 49 percent of Labour members do.

Mr Corbyn has also proved extremely popular with women. YouGov not that women who are eligible to vote are "dramatically" more likely to back the 66-year-old. Although Mr Corbyn is still the most popular among both sexes, Andy Burnham polls better with men with 24 per cent backing him, compared to 17 per cent of women.

His success comes despite a series of Labour figures lining up to attack his bid. This week Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell is the latest to say that a Corbyn leadership will damage the Labour party.
Like Bernie, Corbyn is packing every venue he campaigns in-- and none of his right-leaning rivals are coming anywhere close. Of course, politicians (and media) who are in the pocket of the finance sector have been on a vicious tirade against Corbyn. And predictably, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has joined the anti-Corbyn jihad. Comparing him to Hugo Chávez and using discredited Beltway framing, the Journal insists: "His rise has exposed deep rifts within Labour over whether it should vie with the center-right Conservatives for the voter-rich middle ground or take a more traditional tack to the left. The discord has spurred talk about the possibility of a party split as happened in the early 1980s-- after which Labour spent nearly two decades in opposition."
Alan Johnson, a former Labour home secretary, last week called on Mr. Corbyn’s supporters to “end the madness,” while a former Blair adviser dubbed politicians who supported his nomination “morons.”

Mr. Blair-- who led the party to three national election victories-- has also weighed in. Those who say their hearts tell them to vote for Mr. Corbyn should “get a transplant,” said Mr. Blair during a speech last month. [Corbyn said that he'll wait for the release of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War before commenting on Blair's remarks.]

...Like Bernie Sanders, a socialist candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination next year in the U.S., Mr. Corbyn has drawn enthusiastic crowds of young and old to political rallies with passionate attacks on the wealthy and big business, and won support among major unions and local party branches. Composer and record producer Brian Eno has backed him as someone who could inspire the disenchanted.

Hundreds of people at the Corbyn rally in North London cheered when he said the British people have had enough of being told that cutting spending on social services ultimately helps the economy.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has endorsed Corbyn, pointing out that "The promises of New Labour in the UK and of the Clintonites in the US have been a disappointment." Musicians Billy Bragg and Brian Eno have also been outspoken in their backing for Corbyn, who has always described himself as "an anti-poverty campaigner" and supports a living wage, higher taxes on the richest Britons, free higher education, racial equality and renationalization of the railroads and utilities. He's admired as the Member of Parliament who has claimed the smallest amount of reimburseable expenses. He told The Guardian this summer that he doesn't spend a lot of money. "I lead a very normal life, I ride a bicycle and I don’t have a car."

More important, he "doesn’t buy into the idea that Ed Miliband’s Labour had moved too far to the left," which is being promoted as conventional wisdom by New Labour and Conservatives and their media allies.
“It certainly wasn’t an ultra-left manifesto,” he says. “What was it proposing? A limited amount of public ownership of the national railways, which is actually very popular, quite good stuff on the minimum wage and so on, but on the economy, it wasn’t fundamentally redistributive, which is what we need to be putting forward. We live in a very unequal society.”

The biggest problem, he says, was that Labour allowed the Tories to set the agenda on the economy and never offered an alternative narrative. “We’re very bad at asserting certain things. After the 2010 election and Liam Byrne’s note in the Treasury, it became in the public mind a fact that Labour spent too much and this became repeated all the time, unchallenged. And by the time we actually got round to an election five years later, there was an assumption that we admitted we’d spent too much. Actually, what did we spend too much on? The banking system collapsed because of a combination of a sub-prime mortgage crisis and deregulation. There was a lot of money spent buying out bank shares and buying out banks, a lot of money spent on quantitative easing to keep the money supply going, and now Osborne is selling off RBS shares at a loss and calling it a triumph for him and his government. So I think we have to be much more assertive as to what actually happened.”

But he is unimpressed with the attacks on Miliband by New Labour’s old guard. “I obviously didn’t agree with everything he did or said in the campaign, but he stood up well and worked very hard and should be thanked for that. I’m not joining in personal attacks … I don’t do personal attacks.” It’s true, he doesn’t. Try as you might to get him to badmouth an individual politician, he won’t. Everything is about the policy.

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