James Corbyn’s proved himself to be a tenacious leader. He was chosen by rank and file members to be the Labour party’s leader after their disastrous showing in the 2015 general election. Though Labour’s centrist MPs mounted a no-confidence campaign against Corbyn after the EU referendum, he won the leadership position again, with an even larger portion of the vote.
Now, Corbyn faces his first general election contest. When Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May first called the snap election (reversing her own public statements), Labour was down over 23 points to the Tories. It looked like the Labour party was heading for a historic defeat.
There is little love lost between Corbyn and Labour’s third-way wing. Tony Blair suggested in April that Labour voters should consider voting for the Conservative party or Liberal Democrats.
He also praised Theresa May, arguing: “She’s very sensible, she’s a very decent person, she’s very solid, I agree with a lot she says.”
Mr Blair has previously admitted that he “wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform” like Jeremy Corbyn’s, “even if I thought it was the route to victory”.
Despite all of it, Corbyn has persisted and continued campaigning. May called the election ostensibly to solidify her party’s hold on Parliament as they entered negotiations to exit the EU. Thanks to several mis-steps and u-turns by May during the campaign, the race is now competitive. It isn’t all down to Conservative incompetence though, Corbyn has continued to focus on bread-and-butter issues, as he has through most of his career. May has refused to debate Corbyn and he’s turned her refusal into a political gift that keeps on giving.
So today, the polls look very different. Labour is now within striking distance of the Conservative national vote, what was once a 24 point lead has shrunk to single digits and possibly low single digits. Labour has registered large numbers of voters, many of them young, and younger voters are breaking for Labour.
With that context, Bernie was asked to comment on Corbyn, and he had this to say:
“What has impressed me – and there is a real similarity between what he has done and what I did – is he has taken on the establishment of the Labour party, he has gone to the grassroots and he has tried to transform that party … and that is exactly what I am trying to do,” said Sanders.
“I am also impressed by his willingness to talk about class issues,” he added during a sold-out speech at the Brighton festival. “Too many people run away from the grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality that exist in the United States, the UK and all over the world. We will never make the kind of changes we need unless we take on the levels of inequality that exist.”
The comments are the most extensive yet linking the two movements, though Sanders stressed that his remarks should not been seen as a formal endorsement, arguing that this would be inappropriate behaviour for a foreign politician at this time.