We should not ignore the fact that there are other interesting elections going on in the world. In the UK, attention has been focused on the surprising rise of Jeremy Corbyn as the possible next leader of the Labour Party when party members vote on September 12. Many comparisons have been drawn between him and Bernie Sanders, both being older men who have taken consistent progressive stances all their lives and suddenly find themselves in the spotlight, and shaking up the party establishments that have in the recent past favored bland, center-right, corporate-friendly politicians.
Michael White has a long profile of Corbyn and seems to think that he and Sanders represent a wider trend.
To the amazement of pundits and politicians alike, Corbyn’s campaign took off in July much as Sanders’s own has done for the Democratic nomination. Despite being unfashionable democratic socialists, both men tapped a deep well of resentment against the mainstream political elite by people who feel patronised, neglected and left behind.
Already under assault from rightwing populist insurgencies like the Tea Party and Britain’s anti-European UK Independence Party (Ukip), the elites in the US and UK are reeling. Nor is this phenomenon confined to the narrow realm of these two countries. Seven years into the north Atlantic recessionary trough, with the wider China-centric world increasingly uncertain, the populist revolt is global.
Enter stage left Jeremy Corbyn, a nice man from a comfortable middle class professional background whose parents met campaigning in support of the Republican side in the Spanish civil war of 1936-39. To call him a populist would not do justice to the fiery rhetorical traditions of that breed. He talks gently, dresses casually (sometimes in open-toed sandals and socks) and sports a beard. He is humorous but not witty, non-confrontational and scornful of personal invective in either direction. He has been around since the 1% he condemns so passionately were only a quarter as rich as they are today.
So, like Senator Sanders, Corbyn is a known quantity to those familiar with him – not many until recently. But he is an authentic figure, saying what he has always said about state ownership of utilities like water, power supply and railways (all privatized by Thatcher’s Conservatives), firmly backing Britain’s socialised National Health Service (so much cheaper and fairer than the US model), in favour of higher wages and higher taxes, in favour of controlling the oligarchical excesses of the super-rich.
Meanwhile, just north of us in Canada, parliamentary elections take place on October 19 and currently polls show the New Democratic Party (the most progressive of the three major parties) with a slight plurality of 35.4%, with the ruling Conservative party second with 29.8% and the Liberal party third with 24.7%. If the election were held today, the NDP would win 135 seats in the 338-seat parliament (35 short of an absolute majority) while the Conservatives would win 121 and the Liberals 81.
In May, the NDP surprised observers with a sweeping victory in the provincial elections in Alberta, a province that had been consistently conservative.
There is one party contesting called the Rhinoceros Party that is running on the following platform.
- Repeal the law of gravity
- Promote higher education by building taller schools
- Count the Thousand Islands to make sure the Americans didn’t steal any
- Reform the retail lottery scheme by replacing cash prizes with Senate appointments
- Seat the Queen of Canada in Buckingham, Quebec.
- Nationalize Tim Horton’s
- Move the national capital to Kapuskasing, Ontario
- Privatize the Canadian Army
- Guaranteed monthly orgasms
This sounds like an excellent platform. Unfortunately, the party states that it will not keep any of its promises if elected.