CANDIDATE JEREMY CORBYN speaks during a Labor Party leadership event in Stevenage, England.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – When former British Labor leader Ed Miliband resigned his post following one of the party’s largest electoral defeats in May, few realized the political time bomb he left behind – a new election procedure.
Throughout his five years in office, he faced Conservative party jibes that he had defeated his more suitable brother David for the position of Leader of the Opposition because the then voting system gave too much power to the trades unions.
His answer was to introduce a system where the union influence was sharply reduced. In order to draw in a wider public, individuals could vote without even being a full party member by just paying £3, about NIS 18. And to compensate reducing direct Trades Union influence, individual trades unionists were allowed to participate in the leadership poll by requesting a vote. Some 25,000 have already registered, with another 30,000 awaiting credential checks. But mischievous Conservatives have been urged to sign up too in an attempt to ensure a Jeremy Corbyn victory.
Less than two months into the leadership election, the fourth candidate, Corbyn, had to rely on nominations from several Labor MPs who don’t even agree with his hard-left policies to reach the necessary threshold of 35. However, now the other three Labor candidates have been playing catch up since the initial opinion poll suggested that Corbyn is also set to win by a margin of 6 percentage points, while a only few weeks ago he was considered a left-wing “no hoper” candidate. Fears of his possible, but highly unexpected, victory in mid-September have led to calls to halt the election altogether.
Near panic has swept through the party, and MPs are considering plots to derail Corbyn. Talk of a party split has been dismissed for now, but some moderate MPs are planning an early challenge to Corbyn, should he win.
British Premier David Cameron told The Jerusalem Post
at his annual press garden party that he was delighted at Corbyn’s rapid advance, as if he is elected leader, Cameron believes he will make Labor almost unelectable in the 2020 general election.
With latest figures showing a great surge in membership, more than 50,000 have joined since May, and with a possible 22,000 in the “cheap seats” option, fears of a left-wing takeover have resulted. It is estimated that up to 140,000 new voters will join by the mid-August deadline, a substantial number out of the half a million anticipated total leadership electorate.
Tony Blair intervened in the leadership election last week, bluntly telling the party that a “left-wing platform” would “take the country backwards,” adding that left-wingers like Corbyn were quite reactionary and blind to the chasm between their own beliefs and the public’s. In a memorable further comment, he said to Labor members who said their “heart” was with Mr. Corbyn: “Get a transplant!” Corbyn, appearing on BBC TV Sunday, made clear he is determined to push ahead with his campaign and wants not only to become leader of the opposition but to become prime minister. He praised the large number of supporters, especially the young, who he claimed were fed up with conventional politics and were attracted to his strong anti-austerity platform and his left wing policies, which include a pro-Palestinian stance that extends to wanting talks with his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah.
Interim party leader Harriet Harman is now facing the difficult task of saving the party. Even former front-runner candidate Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who considers himself on the Left, has been forced to harden his credentials by trying to match some of Corbyn’s policies.
Corbyn, who originally was a reluctant candidate, is now relishing rallies packed with enthusiastic supporters and seems determined to make his mark on politics after 32 years of being just a vocal left-wing backbencher.