Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s prospects are rising ahead of upcoming elections in the United Kingdom, as his insurgent campaign rides a wave of progressive populism similar to the one created by Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States last year.
With the British election just a week away, the BBC on Wednesday hosted a debate featuring several party leaders, including Corbyn, who has in recent days surged rapidly in public opinion polls.
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The most recent survey, conducted by YouGov/The Times, finds the Tories ahead of Labour by a mere three points. This drastic shift has appeared to inject new life into an election that was previously viewed as a potential landslide victory for the Conservatives.
On Wednesday, Corbyn used the televised debate—and the fact that Prime Minister Theresa May declined to participate—to further his party’s momentum.
“Britain deserves to see the only two people who could be the next Prime Minister debate,” Corbyn tweeted the morning of the event in a last-minute effort to persuade May to attend.
Once on the debate stage, however, Corbyn shifted his focus to the agenda of May’s party and its “record of working for the few” over the many. While Corbyn’s argument that the rival party’s program favors the wealthy is not new, it is bolstered by a fresh report showing that the Conservatives, as The Independent put it, “raised more than 10 times as much money from large donors in the most recent week of the general election campaign.”
In a particularly heated exchange with Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who quipped that the Labour leader’s economics presumed the existence of a “money tree,” Corbyn argued that the Conservatives are out of touch with the needs of the most vulnerable.
“Have you been to a foodbank?” Corbyn asked. “Have you seen people sleeping around our stations? Have you seen the levels of poverty that exist because of your government’s conscious decisions on the deficit?” As was the case throughout the night, these lines elicited significant applause.
Corbyn’s opponents attempted to explain this applause away by arguing that the audience was disproportionately “left-wing,” but Labour’s rapid climb in the polls indicates that the growing enthusiasm for Corbyn is no facade. As the Evening Standard reported on Thursday, “more voters in [London] say they think Labour’s leader would make a better Prime Minister than Mrs May.”
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Such surveys indicate a “remarkable change in fortunes for the Tories, which had a 24-point lead over Labour when the snap general election was called in April,” The Independent further noted.
In the view of the Corbyn team, the turnaround is a direct consequence of Labour’s political agenda, which was highlighted by its recently released “For the Many, Not the Few” manifesto.
Following the debate, Labour issued a triumphant statement, arguing that “Corbyn clearly won” and that he “showed himself as a leader who wants to change the country for the better.”
“Tonight’s debate highlighted the clear choice at this election,” a Corbyn spokesperson said, “between a Labour party that will invest in and transform our society to build a Britain for the many, and a Conservative party that has held people back and stand[s] only for the few.”
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