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Britain's Labour Party Crowns Leftist Jeremy Corbyn New Leader


Britain's opposition Labour Party chose left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader Saturday despite fears his anti-austerity and big government agenda could doom the party's re-election prospects for years to come.

Corbyn, 66, was crowned Labour's new leader following a stormy three-month election campaign that featured alarming warnings from former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that the lawmaker's leadership would push Labour "over the cliff's edge to the jagged rocks below."

Cheers echoed through the London conference room on Saturday as it was announced Corbyn secured 59.5% of the votes. His closest rival was Andy Burnham, who had 19%.

In his victory speech, Corbyn thanked party members for nominating him, though "some were reluctant to do so, but they did so in a spirit of inclusion and spirit of democracy."

Corbyn was selected after a party-wide vote by members and will now be the main opposition voice to Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling right-of-center Conservative Party. Corbyn beat out two former Labour cabinet ministers and a shadow cabinet minister — Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall — to the top opposition role.

Cooper and Burnham promised a broadly left-of-center opposition similar to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who abruptly stepped down after the party's dismal showing in the last general election in May. Kendall vowed a return to the centrist policies of Blair, who spent heavily on the state but also courted big business and led the country into an unpopular war with Iraq.

Corbyn said the win "showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all."

In the speech Corbyn voiced his support for welcoming refugees to the country and treating them as "human beings."

"My first act as leader of the party will be to go to the demonstration this afternoon to show support for the way refugees should be treated and must be treated in this country," he said.

He spoke vehemently about tackling social inequality and called the housing crisis in London a "social cleansing" led by the Tories.

Corbyn has said that if Labour returns to power he will raise taxes on the wealthy, return major infrastructure such as railways back to state ownership and aggressively reject interventions in foreign conflicts.

Corbyn was virtually unknown before the summer when his popularity surged amid pledges to bring a "new kind of politics" to Britain.