The Corner

National Security & Defense

Britain’s Labour Party Elects Jeremy Corbyn As Leader

They actually did it:

Veteran left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour Party by a landslide.

Mr Corbyn, who began the contest as a rank outsider, saw off a challenge from frontbenchers Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

He gained 251,417 or 59.5% of first preference votes – 40% more than his nearest rival Mr Burnham, who got 19%.

Ms Cooper was third on 17% and Ms Kendall a distant fourth with 4.5% of the vote.

It is difficult to overstate how incredible this is. Going through the motions, the BBC’s James Landale attempts to imagine some plausible reactions to the selection:

Labour has elected its most left wing, most rebellious and most inexperienced leader in its history. 

And few in the party appear certain of what will happen next. 

Will Labour plunge into civil war as moderates refuse to stand in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and leftists organise to deselect Blairite MPs? 

Or will the mild-mannered Mr Corbyn surprise by reaching out to Middle England with the promise of a different kind of politics that appeals in an era of anti-politics? 

Will the Conservatives attack or ignore Mr Corbyn and occupy even more of the political centre ground as Labour shifts left?

Let’s be clear: This is an absolute disaster for progressive politics in Britain. A disaster. In the last forty years, the Labour Party has won only three elections, all of them under the leadership of the moderate Tony Blair. Blair’s key insight into the British public was that it would tolerate a certain amount of government intrusion, but that overtly socialistic parties would be destroyed at the polls — “annihilated” in his memorable words. That having learned this lesson Labour has seen fit to choose a leader who is to the left of Michael Foot defies all belief.

If he likes, Jeremy Corbyn can talk about “anti-politics” and “outsiders” all he likes. But he cannot change the fact that middle England has not been interested in his brand for nigh on half a century now. Forget that Corbyn exhibits a mindless anti-Americanism, that he is openly hostile towards Israel, and that he has a tendency to flirt with the darker side of international Leftism. The man’s a red – and proud of it. Such figures do not win elections in post-Thatcherite Britain.

In the lead-up to the election, the modernizing voices that brought the party back to the center in the 1990s and 2000s were clear as to what would happen if Corbyn made it all the way to the top. Here’s Tony Blair in the Guardian:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the left, right or centre of the party, whether you used to support me or hate me. But please understand the danger we are in.

The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes “disunity”. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.

This is not the 1980s. This is by many dimensions worse and more life threatening.

And here’s David Miliband, whose more left-wing brother Ed led the party to a famous defeat earlier this year:

The Corbyn programme looks backwards. The pledges of nationalisation, 7p in the pound increases in national insurance for those earning more than £50,000, and equivocation about Britain’s place in the EU are the same ideas that I learned were wrong when I joined the Labour party in 1981.

. . .

Labour is only successful, in fact centre-left parties the world over are only successful, electorally and in government, when they recognise the difference between knowing your own mind and defining your own reality.

What a “reality” the pair is waking up to today. How sweetly the Conservative party will sleep tonight.

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