Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a Labour Party leadership hustings event in Warrington, north west England on July 25, 2015, hosted by journalist Paul Waugh.
Voting closed in the leadership contest for Britain’s main opposition Labour party yesterday after a campaign dominated by the shock popularity of radical left candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who looks set to win.
Corbyn was attracting 53% support from those intending to vote, according to the most recent opinion poll from YouGov in mid-August, in a race whose result will be announced tomorrow.
His victory seems barely in doubt, but his opponents have complained that thousands of people had not received their ballot papers.
Corbyn, 66, is closer to European anti-austerity movements like Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos than former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
In an interview with ITV news as ballots closed, he said that Labour would “put across a serious radical alternative message” under his leadership.
He has become the darling of youthful and elderly Labour supporters as well as the powerful trade unions, all tired of the centrist policies of senior Labour figures like Blair, prime minister from 1997 to 2007.
However, he only just managed to gain the support of 35 fellow lawmakers needed to make it onto the ballot, and reports suggest that around half of them didn’t actually vote for him in the end.
Corbyn said he was “not worried at all” about the challenge of leading with so little parliamentary support.
He said support for his campaign showed there was a “huge political movement out there that MPs are very well aware of” and that this could unite fellow lawmakers behind him if he wins.
Grey-haired and with a close-cropped beard, often sporting sandals and looking like a retired teacher, he is neither a great orator nor a charismatic leader.
But faced with his campaign, the other three candidates - Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, all polished fortysomethings advocating more centrist policies - have struggled to galvanise support and Corbyn was 7/1 on with bookmakers as polls closed.
“He has triumphed because he represents a rejection of conventional politics and also because Labour’s mainstream candidates failed to inspire excitement or hope,” Andrew Harrop, general secretary of left-wing think-tank the Fabian Society, said.
Many commentators blamed Labour’s defeat under leader Ed Miliband by David Cameron’s Conservatives in May on a more leftist policy agenda pursued since 2010.
But four months later, the party looks set to vote for a far more left-wing figure, who is fond of bicycling around his constituency in London’s gentrifying Islington North.
Support for Corbyn may have been fuelled by the belief among some Labour voters that neither Burnham, Cooper nor Kendall would fare any better than Miliband did.
“They also feel a sense of despair at the prospect of at least a decade of Conservative rule, so they are choosing forthright, principled opposition over the compromise and discipline needed to prepare for government,” added Harrop.
The opening up of the vote - previously reserved for members of the party and trade unions - to anyone willing to pay £3 will also play a key role in the outcome, with over 600,000 people having applied.
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