The political earthquake that delivered the leadership of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition into the hands of a white-bearded socialist vegetarian with a long history of opposing the monarchy continues to produce aftershocks. On September 12, Jeremy Corbyn, a 100–1 outsider on the left of the Labour Party who had trouble scraping together the required 35 nominations from fellow party members in Parliament to even enter the contest, was elected party leader with a whopping 60 percent of the vote.
Much like Bernie Sanders’s campaign, Corbyn’s challenge to the ruling consensus on everything from the inevitability of austerity to Britain’s supposedly inveterate hostility to refugees attracted hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic, mostly younger voters. He transformed a contest that had been seen as a dreary coronation into a lively, sometimes eccentric debate, with ideas long branded as “extreme” or “unworkable”—renationalizing the country’s railroads, scrapping nuclear weapons, using public funds to build housing—attracting popular support.
Deemed unelectable by the Labour establishment and the overwhelmingly Tory press, Corbyn’s surprise victory was greeted by predictions of an imminent split in the party. Some members of former leader Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet—the group whose job is to provide opposition to government ministers and to be prepared, should Labour win the next election, to take over their jobs—did refuse to serve under Corbyn. But the sheer margin of his victory gave Corbyn a larger democratic mandate than any previous leader of any British political party, quashing talk of party coups and internal revolts—at least for the moment.
Which doesn’t mean Corbyn has had an easy debut. His well-known skepticism about the wisdom of military intervention in the Syrian conflict prompted talk of a rebellion inside his own cabinet, while the prospect of Corbyn acting on his longtime opposition to Britain’s Trident nuclear-defense system led one anonymous serving general to threaten an outright mutiny should the left-wing MP become prime minister.