Jeremy Corbyn is the new British Labour Party: what now?

The past week has seen many events happening in the United Kingdom: the Queen has become the longest-reigning monarch; the Parliament rejected a bill that would have made assisted suicide legal; the independent press standards organisation (Ipso) has marked its first year; the Muslim left-winger Sadiq Khan has been chosen as Labour’s London mayoral candidate. All these events called for important reflections but the general attention has been attracted by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the elections for the new leader of the British Labour Party.

London, United Kingdom - The new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn waves after making his inaugural speech at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London, September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The new Labour leader received nearly 59.5% of first-preference votes, a result that has surprised many, despite the Corbyn-mania that had been spreading over the summer. Originally, Corbyn was not supposed to be one of the principal candidates, neither was he supposed to win, he was voted so that he could provoke debate, his views being more radical than the ones of the other favoured candidates. He was certainly not very popular among the party’s senior figures. Corbyn’s victory was made possible by an incredible electorate expansion and popular support. The elections attracted many new members and supporters who could vote by just paying a £3–fee. The message from these voters is clear: they want change and they want a leader who is unafraid to fight for it. They are tired of the usual politics and they consider Corby’s anti-establishment, anti-austerity, and anti-war views their best chance to change things. Corbyn has so far stood by his principles, for instance by voting against the Conservatives welfare bill while the other candidates for the party leadership merely abstained, now expectations are high and the mandate is huge.

So, what now? People’s support made Corbyn the new Labour leader but will it be enough to make him Prime Minister in 2020’s general elections? Probably not. Corbyn will also need the full support of his party and so uniting Labour his most immediate challenge. Immediately after his victory, Corbyn stated that he will strive for inclusivity but doing so without compromising on his principles and becoming more moderate, therefore betraying the electorate, will not be easy. Some senior figures resigned following Corbyn’s election but he will now remind the rest that the party does not stand a chance at defeating the Tories while they are divided. Labour previous leader Ed Miliband has encouraged those who are reticent to come forward and support Corbyn’s leadership.

There is more than the future government at stake. After the Scottish National Party (SNP) sweeping success in the recent general elections talks about a new referendum on Scotland’s independence are beginning to circulate again. The leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon has said that unless Corbyn can quickly demonstrate Labour has a chance to win the next general elections Scotland will conclude that independence is the only alternative.

Winning the elections was only the first step for Jeremy Corbyn, the real test begins now.

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