These are tough days for progressives. But things are looking up in Britain -- just when it looked like the left was dead. Tom Walkom writes:
While Labour didn’t win the election, it did place a strong second, capturing 261 seats and denying Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives a majority in the Commons.For Corbyn, it was a feat that just a few weeks ago was routinely dismissed as impossible.At the beginning of the campaign, Labour appeared to be in shambles. Corbyn, a classic democratic socialist, who still promotes public ownership, was pronounced unelectable.The 68-year-old trade unionist was said to be too old and too old-fashioned for modern Britain. Even his election as Labour leader in 2015 was widely viewed as a fluke, the result of the party’s too-hasty decision to democratize its voting process.
But Corbyn's win was no fluke:
The reasons for May’s dismal showing in Thursday’s snap election are many. She ran a disastrous campaign marked by policy flip-flops. Her main claim — that only she could safely negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union — never caught on. Indeed, the so-called Brexit issue was not discussed much at all during the campaign.Theoretically, the Manchester and London terror attacks should have helped her. Voters tend to move rightward when their safety is threatened.But in this case, the attacks merely reminded voters that, in a previous Tory government, May had overseen savage manpower cuts to Britain’s police forces.
And what Corbyn advocated were classic progressive policies:
Corbyn campaigned unashamedly for public ownership. A Labour government, he said, would re-nationalize both the railways and the energy grid.It would reintroduce free tuition for university students and reregulate the financial sector. It would build more public housing, raise taxes on the wealthiest 5 per cent of Britons and bring back rent controls.While pronouncing itself in favour of free-trade and investment deals generally, Corbyn’s Labour came out strongly against those that allow private companies to override the public interest.Most of all, however, she paled beside Corbyn. He shone during the campaign.
Corbyn is no pacifist. He endorsed Britain's nuclear strike force. But he stood for policies which used to be anathema. Like Bernie Sanders, he put a progressive agenda back on the table. Time will tell if the public will buy it.
Image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP/GETTY IMAGES