UK Labour Re-elects Jeremy Corbyn 09/24 08:18
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) -- Veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected
head of Britain's Labour Party on Saturday, defeating a challenge to his
year-old leadership to the delight of his grass-roots supporters and the
despair of party centrists, who fear he will lead Labour into the political
Corbyn won almost 62 percent of the more than 500,000 votes cast by Labour
members and supporters. His challenger, Welsh lawmaker Owen Smith, got 38
percent in a result announced at the party's conference in Liverpool, northwest
Corbyn, a long-time back-bench lawmaker, was elected last year to lead
Labour, which governed between 1997 and 2010 but has lost two successive
general elections to the Conservatives.
He has strong support among local party activists, but many Labour
legislators believe his left-wing views are out of step with public opinion,
and have tried to unseat him.
Accepting victory to a standing ovation from delegates, Corbyn said he would
work to unite the party.
"We have much more in common than that which divides us," he said. "As far
as I'm concerned let's wipe that slate clean from today and get on with the
work we've got to do as a party."
Corbyn's margin of victory is larger than a year ago, but he heads a party
that's a long way from defeating the governing Conservatives, and split about
whether it values political principles over gaining power.
Like Bernie Sanders, who shares some of Corbyn's outlook, or Donald Trump
--- who definitely doesn't --- Corbyn is a sign of how the political center
ground has eroded.
The 67-year-old socialist spent more than 30 years as a backbench Labour
lawmaker, never holding a senior role and best known for his frequent
rebellions against the center-left party leadership. When he ran for leader a
year ago, few expected him to win.
But he was propelled to victory by thousands of new members who joined
Labour to back him.
For Corbyn supporters, it was a chance to repudiate the centrist "new
Labour" vision of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who won three elections but
became too cozy with big business for some tastes, and took Britain into the
U.S.-led Iraq War.
Tens of thousands more new members have flocked to Labour since Corbyn was
elected, many of them young and enthusiastic. Corbyn draws big crowds to
rallies and meetings, and his supporters are a formidable force on social media.
His followers --- dubbed Corbynistas --- see Labour as a mass movement for
social justice, similar to Spain's Podemos, rather than simply a machine for
"Politics is changing," said Emma Hamblett, a conference delegate from
Romford, near London. "It's becoming more people-powered (rather) than just the
elite at the top. We're having a voice. It's generating a lot of excitement,
especially among the young."
Other Labour members, and most of the party's lawmakers, want power --- and
think Labour can't win it while Corbyn is in charge. They argue that his
policies --- including re-nationalization of the railways and unilateral
nuclear disarmament --- don't speak to ordinary voters.
He's a lackluster performer in Parliament, and gave muted support to the
European Union during this year's referendum campaign, a factor some think
contributed to the "leave" victory.
After the referendum more than 170 of Labour's 230 MPs declared
no-confidence in Corbyn, but he refused to resign, sparking Smith's leadership
But the little-known Smith failed to generate much enthusiasm.
The contest has been nasty, fraught with online name-calling and allegations
that the leadership of the strongly pro-Palestinian Corbyn has fostered
anti-Semitic abuse in the party.
Corbyn called Saturday for an end to "intimidation and abuse."
"It's not my way, and it's not the Labour way," he said.
Despite the calls for unity, Labour members continue to trade blame for the
Lawmaker Diane Abbott, a Corbyn ally, said the leader had won "a resounding
victory ... in the face of a nastier and more bitter campaign than last time."
"I hope that now the Parliamentary Labour Party will settle down and unite
behind the leader," she said.
But John McTernan, a former senior adviser to Blair, said he would not stop
"He is nothing other than a complete and utter disaster for the Labour
Party," McTernan said. "The battle just moves on."