Jeremy Corbyn trounced the other candidates to become the new leader of the Labour Party on Saturday, capping a remarkable journey in which the veteran leftist lawmaker went from being an upstart outsider to having the biggest mandate of any Labour leader in history. It wasn’t even close. Corbyn won 59.5 percent of the more than 400,000 votes cast, meaning he won leadership of the U.K.’s main opposition party by an even larger margin than Tony Blair’s historic 1994 victory when he got 57 percent of the vote, notes the Independent. Speaking of Blair, the former prime minister has been one of the harshest opponents to Corbyn, going as far as warning party members that electing the veteran backbencher as leader would mean the party’s “annihilation.” In July, Blair even said that anyone whose heart is with Corbyn should “get a transplant.”
Corbyn’s victory gives the Labour Party leadership the mandate to turn to the hard left “for the first time in more than three decades,” notes the New York Times. The paper notes this should be seen as part of a larger trend:
As Europe continues to feel the aftershocks of the financial crisis of 2008, voters have been increasingly attracted to the political extremes, with support growing both for socialist parties on the left and nationalist ones on the right. The Labour leadership result could now shift the main opposition party in Britain closer to the types of positions taken by other leftist parties that have become prominent across Europe, including Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.
In the Guardian Owen Jones also notes Corbyn’s victory is part of a general anger with the old way of doing politics:
The Corbyn phenomenon has to be put in the broader context of surging disillusionment with political elites across the western world which finds its expression in support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Podemos and the Front National, the SNP and Ukip.
Social democracy is in crisis because it accepted the underlying principles of austerity, and therefore has little to say. A vacuum was left, and the Corbyn phenomenon filled it. He offered an optimistic hopeful vision that resonated, and his rivals failed to do so. The heirs of New Labour have a lot of soul-searching to do, and it will mean rejecting the negativity and nihilism represented by their champions in the media.
Minutes after he was declared the winner, Corbyn said that the huge support for his candidacy showed how people are “fed up with the injustice and inequality of Britain.” Plus it proved just how out of touch the party leadership has been. “The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fightback gathers speed and gathers pace,” he said, according to the Guardian. Corbyn said his first act as Labour leader would be to attend a demonstration to show support for refugees.
The Washington Post makes a connection between Corbyn’s victory and “that of another senior-citizen socialist who has come out of nowhere this year to rattle his party’s center-left establishment.” Sen. Bernie Sanders may be seen as a longshot candidate now, but “Corbyn was seen in exactly the same light until a barnstorming tour this summer in which he energized crowds across Britain and went from voice in the wilderness to prohibitive favorite.”