Britain’s opposition Labour Party has elected North Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn, 66, this weekend in one of the most unexpected first-round victories in the history of the party leadership.
Corbyn took nearly 60 percent percent of first-preference votes out of the 400,000 ballots cast. Ed Milliband remained as a supporter but most of the party’s shadow cabinet resigned.
He is a strong critic of Israel and a major supporter of the Palestinian Authority. He has previously referred to himself as a “friend” of Hamas and Hezbollah.
During an interview with Iran’s Press TV two weeks ago, he caused a firestorm when he lamented the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. “There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him and put him on trial, to go through that process,” he said. “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon tragedy.”
Corbyn opposes the UK government’s austerity policies and also its membership in NATO.
His first act as a Labour party header was to attend a “refugees welcome here” rally, attended by tens of thousands of people marching through central London supporting the ‘rights of refugees.’ Attendees were led in singing the socialist anthem “The Red Flag.”
He ran on an anti-austerity, anti-war program, calling for an end to benefit cuts and higher taxes on the richest sector of society. He also called for renationalization of the railways and energy sector, rent controls, an end to zero-hours contracts, the abolition of student tuition fees and the scrapping of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
He opposes any expansion of RAF air strikes against Da’esh (ISIS) in Syria, as well.
Corbyn said in his victory speech the message was clear: that people are “fed up with the injustice and the inequality” of Britain.
“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 Reuters.
Perhaps, but some critics – including former prime minister Tony Blair – are predicting that Corbyn’s “Alice in Wonderland” policies, as he described them, will be “toxic” for Labour at the polls later on when it counts.
Corbyn also launched a straightforward attack on media within minutes of being elected, calling journalists’ behavior at times “intrustive, abusive and simply wrong.
“I say to journalists: attack public political figures. That is okay but please don’t attack people who didn’t ask to be put in the limelight. Leave them alone in all circumstances,” he said.
Hana Levi Julian