Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing almost certain doom in the UK elections taking place in just over two weeks, but he’s getting a last minute boost from an unexpected source: the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
Corbyn, the leader of UK’s Labour Party, would be the likely choice for Prime Minister if Labour pulls out a decisive victory in the upcoming contest, but currently the far-left legislator’s party — and accused anti-Semite — is running a startling 13 points behind Conservatives and looks headed for a likely defeat.
But defeat matters not to Sanders, who has formed something of a cross-ocean kinship with Corbyn, who, like Sanders, identifies as a “Democratic socialist” rather than as a traditional liberal. Back in April, the left-leaning publication, The Nation, compared the pair to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, suggesting that just as the conservative alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom rose up in the early 1980s, so too could a liberal alliance, this time between “revolutionaires” Sanders and Corybn.
Sanders is floundering in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Not nearly as popular as he was four years ago, when he was the only progressive running for the nomination, Sanders has fallen well behind nationally and could be out of the race by Super Tuesday, after losing both New Hampshire and Iowa by a wide margin. There’s also concerns that the nearly 80-year old Sanders is in poor health and may not be able to complete an entire campaign, let alone an entire term as president.
So with little to do here, the Guardian reports, Sanders staffers have organized an international phone bank, pulling from their Democratic socialist ranks to campaign actively for Corbyn.
“Campaigners for US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders have been lending their support to the Labour party, running phone-banking sessions from New York ahead of the general election,” the UK publication reports. “The city’s branch of Labour International has been working with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who have been calling British campaigners with tips on how to encourage people to register to vote and cast a ballot for Labour at the December poll.”
The DSA equivalent in the UK says this is the start of a beautiful friendship between the two parties.
“‘A spokesperson for Momentum, the grassroots Labour campaign group, said: ‘This is part of a growing relationship between Bernie, DSA activists and Momentum and Labour members abroad that has included exchanges between the nurses’ unions of the US and the UK to campaign on public health in the US,'” the Guardian reported. “Canvassing sessions run by the US volunteers for Momentum campaigners in the UK on Saturdays are an attempt to support grassroots activism and turn out the vote for Labour.”
“Many Labour International and Momentum members have been volunteers on Sanders’ campaign and so the favour’s being returned,” one spokesperson for the organization said.
“I think it’s important that the U.K. elect a Labour government, specifically because they are putting forth such an incredibly positive and radical vision [of democratic socialism],” a spokesperson for the DSA added to MTV News.
The two parties are quite similar. Corbyn’s Labour party released a manifesto just last week announcing their renewed commitment to a variety of progressive propositions including “taxing the rich; protecting programs like ‘right to food’ and national care services; decreasing or even eliminating the cost of education; introducing rent controls in big cities; and publicly funding health care.” They’re also radically opposed to Brexit.
They also share some unsavory qualities. Like Democratic socialists in America, Corbyn’s Labour party toys regularly with anti-Semitism. Unlike Democratic socialists in America, though, the anti-Semitism isn’t rare, and it isn’t couched as “criticism” of Israel. It’s often just straight up hate — and Corbyn has repeatedly, and recently according to the BBC, refused to condemn it.
“What I’ll say is this I am determined that our society is safe for people of all faiths,” Corbyn said in a recent interview, deliberately avoiding talking about anti-Semitism directly. “I don’t want anyone to be feeling insecure, in our society and our government will protect every community against the abuse they receive on the streets, on the trains, or in any other form of life.”
The Conservatives look likely to gain seats in the upcoming elections, thanks in part to a decision by far-right party, UKIP, to abandon challenges to vulnerable conservative politicians. But progressives in Corbyn’s party hope that Corbyn’s ideas can pull the party further left, the way Sanders’ policies have pulled the Democrats, giving him a long-term impact on the UK’s government, regardless of victory.