Is Jeremy Corbyn the Bernie Sanders of British politics?
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Bernier Sanders are leading sister movements, but they propose dissimilar salves for social inequality.
Jeremy Corbyn remains planted firmly at the head of Britain’s Labour Party after handing a resounding defeat to challenger Owen Smith on Saturday.
With over half a million registered Labour supporters casting a ballot on the eve of the party’s conference, Mr. Corbyn won with 61.8 percent of the vote, a bigger margin than in the election that initially brought him to power, according to the BBC.
The results restore the mandate of a leader who suffered mightily from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, which triggered a mass exodus of cabinet members who accused Corbyn of a half-hearted campaign – and calls for his replacement from many Labour Party legislators, who never quite warmed to him.
"He was never really accepted by the upper levels of the party membership," Fiona Hill, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe, told The Christian Science Monitor in June. "He scraped in on a grass-roots ticket. But the grass roots expected him to stick to his guns and reflect their views, so when he opted to campaign for Remain – which was inevitable – he got caught out."
Corbyn’s easy victory may also point to the primacy of his strain of leftism within the Labour Party, at a time when similar energies appear to have been simultaneously co-opted and contained by the Democratic Party in the United States – the icon of that movement being Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, an independent whose unsuccessful campaign for the presidential nomination shifted the Democrats’ policy platform significantly to the left.
Corbyn has encouraged comparisons with Senator Sanders, suggesting at an August rally – either falsely or mistakenly – that Sanders had sent a message of support to his campaign.
“We had a message yesterday from Bernie Sanders, saying that they condemned him because he wasn't electable,” said Corbyn, according to the Daily Mirror, a London tabloid. "And he said the reason they condemned him was because he was electable. And he represented a threat to the establishment within the USA.”
"So I think you can see the parallels that are going on there.”
A spokesman for Sanders said that the senator had not contacted the British politician, but that he "has a lot of respect for Mr. Corbyn and wishes him well."
Icons of sister political expressions spawned in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Corbyn and Sanders have carved out unorthodox appeal as old fogies who speak young people’s language on education, healthcare, and immigration.
In his first election victory, Corbyn culled votes from a wave of new voters, partly on the strength of canvassing apps inspired by Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and in August he unveiled a seven-point “digital democracy manifesto” calling for a greater equality in ownership of and access to digital resources. Sanders, meanwhile, grew a following on social media that dwarfed that of his opponents, partly as a way to circumnavigate what his campaign saw as an unduly adversarial news media.
Some of the differences between the two leaders reflect the ideological tendencies of their respective countries. As the New Statesman pointed out in February, foreign policy is a favored theme for Corbyn, whereas Sanders has given voice to an anti-globalization that gets its strength more from opposition to trade deals than from admiration for Latin American populists and an aversion to military force. And Corbyn’s career as a backbencher contrasts with Sanders’s role in executive offices and committees.
But they also differ crucially in how they aim to effect change. Where Sanders proposed new taxes to pay for new social programs, Corbyn focuses less on redistribution than on “[rolling] back the tide” of privatization of state services, pushing for the nationalization of the railways and a European-style delegation of responsibility for water and energy services to local councils, as the BBC noted in February.
In an acceptance speech on Saturday, Corbyn pledged to mend rifts within Labour.
“We have much more in common than that which divides us,” he said, reported the Guardian. “As far as I’m concerned, the slate is wiped clean from today.”