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'Serial Rebel' Jeremy Corbyn Expected To Win Labour Party Leadership


We're going to hear next about a political candidate from the fringes who has unexpectedly become a front runner, and that former outsider may now be his party's new leader. This is not a description of the U.S. presidential race. It's one of the big political stories in the United Kingdom. Tomorrow, the British Labour Party will announce the results in its leadership election. NPR's Ari Shapiro tells us about the man from the party's far-left who is expected to take the prize.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Jeremy Corbyn has been in Parliament for more than 30 years, and he holds an impressive title. By the numbers, he's often the most defiant member of the Labour Party. Here's political scientist Danny Rye of Liverpool Hope University.

DANNY RYE: He has a history as a serial rebel. He's voted against the party, it's said, something like 500 times in his Parliamentary career.

SHAPIRO: On issues from war, to nukes, to welfare spending, Corbyn sits happily to the left of his party. During one recent five-year parliamentary session, Jeremy Corbyn broke with Labour on a fourth of all the votes. Last night, when Corbin welcomed reporters to a press conference in his trendy, lefty home district, he said...


JEREMY CORBYN: This is North Islington you're in now. It's not like the rest of the world.

SHAPIRO: And yet, when the Labour Party announces the results of leadership elections tomorrow morning, every indication is that Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing troublemaking self-described socialist, will be the new party leader. So how did we get here? Let's rewind the clock four months to British national elections in May. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron sailed to a second term, and Labour leader Ed Miliband resigned in disgrace.


ED MILIBAND: And now it's time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party.

SHAPIRO: Corbyn was reluctant to join the party's leadership race. He ran to expand the scope of the debate beyond the standard centrist policy arguments. Then something shocking happened. This rumpled, professorial 66-year-old caught fire. None of his mainstream adversaries ever broke through. Here's political scientist Eunice Goes of Richmond University.

EUNICE GOES: The Jeremy Corbyn leadership bid has given a prominence to the left of the Labour Party that, for over 15 years, had been essentially marginalized.


SHAPIRO: At a Corbyn rally last night celebrating the end of the campaign, the crowd filled every available corner of the hall. Voter Tony Creeden explained Corbyn's unexpected rock-star status this way.

TONY CREEDEN: Because I think there's a complete gulf between the political class and the ordinary people and because, in the end, I think he speaks to the concerns of ordinary people.

SHAPIRO: Here's how Corbyn put it at his press conference.


CORBYN: I think there is a mood in the country that people want to see a more inclusive, a more equal, a more egalitarian society. And that is a mood that I think is very exciting.

SHAPIRO: Labour's elder statesmen are panicking, saying that a Corbyn victory would consign the party to the political wilderness for decades. Former prime minister Tony Blair wrote in The Guardian, quote, "the party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff's edge to the jagged rocks below." Political scientist Rye says Labour voters may be responding to a movement that's taking place in other democracies.

RYE: They see what's happened in places like Greece and in Spain with these kind of insurgent kind of left-wing movements. And I think this is our equivalent of that, a kind of left-wing response to austerity.

SHAPIRO: Voting ended yesterday, and the winner of the Labour leadership race will be officially announced tomorrow morning. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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