UK: Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest

Veteran socialist wins second mandate to run opposition party after bitter, summer-long battle within the Labour Party.

The leader of Britain''s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, reacts after the announcement of his victory in the party''s leadership election, in Liverpool
Corbyn won almost 62 percent of the 500,000-plus votes cast by Labour members and supporters [Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

Liverpool, UK – Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party after fending off a challenge from fellow MP Owen Smith.

The veteran left-wing MP was announced the winner of the leadership race at the party’s annual conference in the northern English city of Liverpool on Saturday, winning almost 62 percent of the 500,000-plus votes cast by Labour members and supporters.

Corbyn’s win, by 313,209 to 193,229 votes, cements his authority over the Labour Party.

Following the announcement of the results, Corbyn said he would now work on uniting the party and pressuring the government on creating a fairer economic order.

“I will do everything I can to repay the trust and support [of voters], to bring our party together and to make it an engine of progress for our people,” Corbyn said.

“This is the time for all of us to focus every ounce of energy on exposing the Tories [Conservative Party] and the damage they are doing to our country.”

Corbyn was elected last year to lead Labour, which governed the UK between 1997 and 2010 but has lost two successive general elections.

“We have much more in common than that which divides us. 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 together.”

More than 750 Corbyn supporters celebrated his win at an event held by the pro-Corbyn Momentum organisation in Liverpool.

Corbyn supporters celebrate the announcement [Shafik Mandhai/Al Jazeera]
Corbyn supporters celebrate the announcement [Shafik Mandhai/Al Jazeera]

Tom Skinner, a Corbyn supporter who joined the Labour Party at the start of the year, said the re-election was a message to those in the party who had spent months trying to oust him.

“After nine months of sabotage by some – but not all – of his MPs, Corbyn’s support in the party has increased,” Skinner told Al Jazeera, adding that he expected the Labour leader to reverse the decline in polls.

“I feel that Corbyn, despite some discouraging polls and doubts in marginal constituencies, is our best hope.

“We were catching up, approaching neck-and-neck with the Tories back in March before the inner-party turmoil intensified. With the kind of movement no we’re building now, we can do it again and pull ahead. [We can be] the biggest party anywhere in Western Europe.”

READ MORE: The roots of Jeremy Corbyn’s support

The win comes amid deep divisions within the Labour Party over the political direction it is taking and doubts over Corbyn’s electability.

While Corbyn has the support of most rank-and-file Labour members, he has struggled to retain support of his MPs.

The latest YouGov poll puts Labour at 30 percent – nine points behind the ruling Conservative party.

Natasha Josette, a Momentum activist, said the result was proof Labour could garner grassroots support.

“He’s got four years left until the general election and I think he is definitely electable,” Josette said.

“We know decade after decade that Corbyn has been strong in his politics, and he’s been steadfast. That’s something that he’ll take into a general election.”

To his detractors, the shortfall is due to a lack of appeal in his centre-left policies but his supporters argue disunity within the party is pushing the electorate away.

Following June’s Brexit vote, Corbyn’s opponents within the party launched a leadership challenge where he was accused of not campaigning hard enough to prevent the vote to leave the bloc.

Talk to Al Jazeera – Jeremy Corbyn

Source: Al Jazeera