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AFP
December 13, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn: Britain’s main opposition leader

World

AFP
December 13, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn hopes to become Britain’s prime minister on Thursday after a campaign in which the Labour leader has doggedly maintained a neutral line on the burning issue of Brexit.

The 70-year-old leftist has been trying to convince voters that he can heal divisions by impartially presiding over a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership. The main opposition leader is offering the country a choice between a newly negotiated, softer form of Brexit and staying in the European Union.

His party’s manifesto pledges radical plans to "rewrite the rules of the economy", nationalise utilities and splurge money on public services. Corbyn commands cult-like adoration from enthusiastic, pro-European young supporters in England’s larger urban centres.

But to obtain power, he must also shore up pro-Brexit, older traditional Labour voters beyond the cities and convince Conservative and Liberal Democrat backers to switch their vote. A lifelong campaigner on socialist causes, Corbyn appears happiest when campaigning on the stump, addressing crowds of cheering supporters who share his views.

But unlike the 2017 election, where Corbyn defied opinion polls to slash a massive Conservative lead, this campaign has been less reliant on unscripted tub-thumping appearances.

This time he has relied on presentations of supposedly secret dossiers that he claims prove the duplicity of the man he is seeking to defeat, Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The main thrust of Corbyn’s campaign has not been on Brexit but on transforming British society.

A key plank has been allegations that Johnson is secretly plotting to sell off the National Health Service in a "toxic" post-Brexit trade deal with US President Donald Trump. Both Johnson and Trump have vehemently denied the claims, with the Conservatives comparing Corbyn to a desperate conspiracy theorist.

Corbyn’s campaign though has seen him battle allegations of anti-Semitism flourishing in the Labour movement under his stewardship. Britain’s most senior rabbi even suggested anti-Semitism was a "new poison" within the party, which had been "sanctioned from the very top".

Corbyn’s campaign interviews have, at times, made for awkward viewing. In one BBC interview, he declined repeated chances to apologise to Britain’s Jewish community for anti-Semitism.

On ITV, he was asked whether he watched Queen Elizabeth II’s annual 3:00 pm Christmas Day message, the staunch republican gathered his recollections and said: "It’s on in the morning usually; we have it on some of the time."