Corbyn Wins by Landslide Leaving Cooper and Burnham Humiliated

Leading Blairites warned the party is now \"fighting for its life\" as eight shadow ministers resigned from Labour\'s front bench within minutes of Mr Corbyn\'s victory.

Published: 13th September 2015 08:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th September 2015 08:58 AM   |  A+A-

LONDON: Britain's opposition labour party was plunged into crisis last night (Saturday) after the Left-wing radical Jeremy Corbyn stormed to a landslide victory in the party's leadership election.

Leading Blairites warned the party is now "fighting for its life" as eight shadow ministers resigned from Labour's front bench within minutes of Mr Corbyn's victory.

Mr Corbyn won the election with 60 per cent of the vote and the backing of more than 250,000 members, crushing the campaigns of the former cabinet ministers Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.

Mr Burnham and Mrs Cooper, who served in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, were humiliated and left with just 19 per cent and 17 per cent of the vote respectively.

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, warned: "Labour is facing the fight of its life to remain a viable party of government."

David Blunkett, the former home secretary, said Labour could be "on the road to nowhere" after he was harangued by a Corbyn supporter shouting: "Jeremy in; Blairites out."

In a further sign of Labour's lurch to the Left, Tristram Hunt, a leading moderniser and critic of Mr Corbyn's was jeered outside the conference hall in Westminster where the result was announced. Mr Corbyn's backers chanted: "Old Labour, not New Labour."

Mr Corbyn was last night preparing to bring back a number of hard-Left socialist MPs to the party's front bench, including Diane Abbott, the former minister Michael Meacher, and John McDonnell, his campaign manager, who wants to raise taxes on the middle-classes.

One Labour MP said "New Labour is now dead and buried", and Liam Fox, the former Tory defence secretary, said that Mr Blair's legacy "has finally been laid to rest".

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, and Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, hailed their fellow socialist's victory amid fears of a catastrophic split in the party.

The result was immediately welcomed by the ultra-Left-wing governments of Greece and Argentina while the Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness sent their "warmest congratulations".

The Conservatives warned that the "extreme" Mr Corbyn represents a "serious risk" to national and economic security as they moved to claim the centre-ground of British politics.

The 66 year-old MP for Islington North came from obscurity as a rank outsider in June to triumph in the contest. He won in large part thanks to votes from people who paid pounds 3 to become Labour Party "members".

He received 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast in the election, including 88,449 of the 105,598 votes from people who paid pounds 3 to become registered members of the party.

As he accepted his new post in a rambling speech to thousands of supporters, Mr Corbyn declared that a new "movement" had been born to fight for "a more equal, a more decent Britain".

Mr Corbyn said the campaign "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".

After the official announcement at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster Mr Corbyn and his team went to a nearby pub, the Sanctuary House, where the new leader drank lime and soda, and led his supporters in a rousing chorus of the socialist anthem, The Red Flag.

Speaking to supporters in the pub, Mr Corbyn paid a warm tribute to Mr McCluskey and his union, Unite, who had been "fantastic" for providing office space and support for his leadership campaign.

Mr McDonnell, the backbench socialist MP who ran Mr Corbyn's campaign, said he was almost in tears at the result. "The earth moved," he said. "Another world is possible. We want to bring this government down. We want to install in No 10 one of the best socialists."

But the result opened up a vast rift between Labour's grassroots members and the party's MPs, the most of whom did not back Mr Corbyn for leader and who believe he will lead them to electoral oblivion.

Labour grandees, including Lord Mandelson and Mr Blunkett, who both served under Tony Blair, warned that the party under Mr Corbyn was facing disaster.

Speaking outside Labour's special conference in Westminster, Mr Blunkett said he was "deeply fearful" about Labour's future and warned that Mr Corbyn's aggressive supporters must be reined in. "One of them spoke to me in the conference and said 'Jeremy in; Blairites out,'" he said.

"Now if that is the attitude we're on the road nowhere. We need policies that mean something and are relevant to people out there. The issue is whether there will be a Labour government in 2020 which will be addressing the issues in four and a half years' time which are very different to the ones Jeremy has been campaigning on today.

"We cannot fulfil anybody's promises and we cannot help those that need a Labour government most if we remain in opposition. I am deeply fearful of the direction which we might go."

Lord Soley, a former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said he feared victory for Mr Corbyn "may have handed the next election to the Tory party".

Comparing the choice of leader to that of Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservatives in 2001, he said: "They very quickly got rid of IDS. I do not see that happening as quickly with Labour."

Mr Corbyn's team hit back at their critics, declaring that New Labour's legacy was dead after the "Blairite" leadership candidate Liz Kendall won just 4.5 per cent of the vote. One of the new leader's advisers said: "The Blairites didn't even get five per cent of the vote - they are a historical anomaly."

Mr Corbyn now faces a huge struggle to unite the Labour Party in Parliament behind his leadership. Only 15 per cent of MPs - many reluctantly - agreed to nominate him so that his name could be on the ballot paper in June.

A number did so after saying that they would not be voting for him and hoped he would not win.

Jamie Reed, the shadow health minister, was the first to quit yesterday, publishing his resignation letter while Mr Corbyn was still on stage making his acceptance speech.

Within minutes of the result being announced, Mr Hunt quit as Labour's shadow education secretary, Rachel Reeves resigned from her post as shadow work and pensions secretary, and Emma Reynolds quit as shadow communities secretary.

Mrs Cooper, the shadow home secretary, Ms Kendall, who was shadow care minister, and Chris Leslie, the shadow chancellor, have also indicated that they will not serve under Mr Corbyn.

Angela Smith, a shadow environment, also quit in protest at Mr Corbyn's foreign policies.

Mr Burnham is said to be considering taking a post in Mr Corbyn's team.

Mr Hunt and Chuka Umunna, who withdrew from the leadership race in May, have formed a group dubbed "The Resistance" to oppose Mr Corbyn from within Parliament.

However, they were yesterday keeping their own counsel, with Mr Umunna publicly calling for the party to unite following Mr Corbyn's victory.

But there were suggestions that MPs angry at the result would try to remove Mr Corbyn in a coup.

One senior figure in a rival leadership campaign said: "Corbyn has declared war on the parliamentary Labour Party. We will be considering our response."

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, echoed calls for unity. He said he would support Mr Corbyn and denied claims that the leadership election had been decided by a huge influx of radical socialist "entryists" who joined the party to vote in the contest. More than 350,000 people signed up to the party since the election.

"Right across our party, party members, party supporters, affiliated supporters, they voted for Jeremy Corbyn," Mr Miliband said.

"It is a massive opportunity for our party. People wouldn't believe it was possible to have a political party of 500,000."

Mr Corbyn received messages of support from Left-wing parties around the world, including Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. The president of Argentina, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, congratulated him, calling him "a great friend" who "actively supports the call" for dialogue over the future of the Falklands.

Appearing at a rally for refugees in Parliament Square, Mr Corbyn said he would not join the "clamour" to bomb Isil jihadists in Syria as this would lead to "the mourning of the loss of soldiers of all uniforms".

The Conservatives warned that Mr Corbyn posed a major threat to Britain's national security.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said: "Labour are now a serious risk to our nation's security, our economy's security and your family's security."

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, called on "everyone who recognises just what a risk Jeremy Corbyn poses to our country" to join the fight against Labour.

He would be "a prime minister who believes his real friends are the terrorists of Hizbollah and Hamas not the governments of Denmark and Holland, a prime minister who thinks the death of Osama bin Laden is a tragedy and our own Armed Forces have had their day", Mr Gove said.

Mr Corbyn spent yesterday evening in Brewer's Green headquarters with the party's general secretary, Iain McNicol, discussing shadow cabinet appointments and discussing how to implement his radical policies, which include scrapping nuclear weapons, renationalising the energy companies and ending austerity.

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