Socialist Jeremy Corbyn elected UK opposition Labour leader

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The U.K. Labour Party's New Leader Is a Radical Socialist

Karl Marx admirer Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of Britain's opposition Labour party on Saturday, a victory that may make a British EU exit more likely and which one former Labour prime minister has warned could leave their party unelectable.

"Things can and they will change," Corbyn, 66, said in a victory speech which began with criticism of the British media for intrusive reporting and ended with a vow to achieve justice for the poor and downtrodden.

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Socialist Jeremy Corbyn elected UK opposition Labour leader
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Jeremy Corbyn is announced as the new leader of the Labour Party at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on September 12, 2015 in London, England. Mr Corbyn was announced as the new Labour leader today following three months of campaigning against fellow candidates ministers Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham and shadow minister Liz Kendall. The leadership contest comes after Ed Miliband's resignation following the general election defeat in May. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Jeremy Corbyn (R) is announced as the new leader of the Labour Party with Tom Watson (L) elected the new deputy leader, at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on September 12, 2015 in London, England. Mr Corbyn was announced as the new Labour leader today following three months of campaigning against fellow candidates ministers Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham and shadow minister Liz Kendall. The leadership contest comes after Ed Miliband's resignation following the general election defeat in May. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Jeremy Corbyn and shadow minister Liz Kendall talk to each other prior to the announcement of the new leader of the Labour Party at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on September 12, 2015 in London, England. Mr Corbyn was announced as the new Labour leader today following three months of campaigning against fellow candidates ministers Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham and shadow minister Liz Kendall. The leadership contest comes after Ed Miliband's resignation following the general election defeat in May. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the audience after being announced as the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour party, in London on September 12, 2015. Radical anti-austerity candidate Jeremy Corbyn has been elected the new head of Britain's main opposition Labour Party with 59.5 percent of the vote, the party announced at a special conference. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn smiles as he leaves the stage after he is announced as the new leader of The Labour Party during the Labour Party Leadership Conference in London, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Corbyn will now lead Britain's main opposition party. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Labour leadership candidates from left, Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, and Andy Burnham, pose for the media at the end of the Labour party leadership final debate at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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"I say thank you in advance to us all working together to achieve great victories, not just electorally for Labour, but emotionally for the whole of our society to show we don't have to be unequal, it doesn't have to be unfair, poverty isn't inevitable," he said.

Corbyn won 59.5 percent of the ballots cast, or 251,417 votes, in the leadership, winning in the first round. When the results were announced he was cheered and hugged, even by some of his rivals.

A vegetarian who initially did not expect to win the contest, Corbyn has struck a chord with many Labour supporters by repudiating the pro-business consensus of former leader Tony Blair. Instead he has offered wealth taxes, nuclear disarmament and ambiguity about EU membership.

"The Tories have used the economic crisis of 2008 to impose terrible burden on the poorest people in this country," Corbyn, dressed in a dark jacked and unbuttoned blue shirt, told supporters.

"I am fed up with the social cleansing of London by this Tory government," he said of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives.

Corbyn defeated two former Labour ministers, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall, regarded as the heir to Blair.

A left winger and parliamentary veteran with a long history of voting against his own party, Corbyn triumphed on a message of promising to increase government investment though money-printing and renationalizing vast swathes of the economy.

"OFF THE CLIFF?"

The prospect of a return to the party's socialist roots has drawn stark warnings that they will be annihilated in 2020 national elections by a British public that in May re-elected Cameron for a second term on a promise to cut spending.

"The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff's edge to the jagged rocks below," warned former centrist Labour prime minister Blair in one of three increasingly desperate pleas to voters to stop the Corbyn surge before the result was announced.

Some party members have even said Labour could split or that Corbyn would face a revolt by some lawmakers.

But by promising to increase, rather than cut, government investment though money-printing, Corbyn has found favor among disillusioned young voters and socialists who had drifted away from the party after nearly two decades battling for the political center ground.

The likely abandonment of the political center ground, particularly on the subject of balancing Britain's books, is seen by many as a gift for the Conservative Party that could herald a prolonged spell in power for the center-right party.

May's election result showed public backing for less state spending and to return the country to surplus by the end of the decade, while Britain's post-war election results show that elections are not won without the support of center-ground voters.

"Their whole debate seems to ignore what almost every other political party in almost every other country has now grasped," Cameron said on Friday, referring to Corbyn's anti-austerity views.

"It's arguing at the extremes of the debate, simply wedded to more and more spending, more and more borrowing and more and more taxes. And in that regard they pose a clear threat to the financial security of every family in Britain."

With Cameron having already ruled out a third term as prime minister, Corbyn's rise has put the long race to succeed him into focus. Chancellor George Osborne, Cameron's closest political ally, currently leads the pack ahead of colorful London Mayor Boris Johnson and interior minister Theresa May.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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