Surprise contender to lead UK’s Labour, renationalise swaths of economy

A left-wing Labour politician, often regarded as being on the fringes of the British political scene, has seen his chances of leading his party rise dramatically.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 26, 2015) (BBC ANDREW MARR SHOW) – A surprise contender to lead Britain’s opposition Labour Party said on Sunday (July 26) he believed swaths of the economy should be renationalised as a battle for the left-wing party’s soul prompted warnings it could split in two.

The party, which in May suffered its worst election defeat in almost three decades, is choosing a new leader it hopes can challenge Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2020.

Ed Miliband, its previous leader, quit in May.

The unexpected success of Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-leaning of four leadership candidates, has dominated the contest, sparking warnings from rivals he would consign the party of triple election winner Tony Blair to “oblivion”.

Blair, in office from 1997-2007, has himself intervened to urge Labour to reject Corbyn and embrace more centrist candidates if it wants to regain power, advice dismissed by Corbyn as misguided.

Corbyn, 66, a veteran parliamentarian, initially struggled to even get on the slate. But he has since enjoyed a surge in support with one opinion poll predicting he will triumph in a process set to culminate on September 12.

On Sunday, he fleshed out his policies, praising Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, and speaking out in favour of the railways, postal service and power utilities being returned to public ownership.

“Marx analysed what was happening in a quite brilliant way,” Corbyn told BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show. “If we are investing in infrastructure then we the public should get the benefit of it,” he said.

Britain’s water, rail and nuclear industries were privatised in the 1980s and 90s by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major.

With Britain’s present Conservative government under Prime Minister David Cameron committed to an in-out referendum on membership of the Europe Union, Corbyn questioned the EU’s approach on two of the biggest issues facing the bloc: the Greek financial crisis and a big trade deal being negotiated with the U.S.

“The way that Greece has been treated is creating a humanitarian crisis. All that bailout to Greece has actually gone back to the banks, it hasn’t gone to the Greek people. Europe is negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which if it goes through will be devastating for us. I think us, Labour, should be now saying, ‘we want workers’ protection across Europe, we want a European social chapter, we want opposition to TTIP as part of the negotiations’, rather than giving (British Prime Minister David) Cameron a free hand to do whatever he wants and saying we are going to support him. I think we have got to be part of the pressure,” he said.

Corbyn proved a thorn in the side of Labour prime minister Tony Blair, vigourously opposing Britain’s involvement in the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The three other candidates vying to lead the party are health spokesman Andy Burnham, widely seen as the most likely to beat Corbyn, home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall, considered by some to be the Blairite candidate.