For a radical socialist written off by many as a no-hoper leading the Labour Party to its worst ever election defeat on 8 June, Jeremy Corbyn is pulling in big crowds.
Corbyn, a 68-year-old peace campaigner, has been speaking at modestly-attended fringe rallies and demonstrations for decades. But he now seems to have more of audience.
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election last month when she was riding high in opinion polls, hoping for a landslide win on a par with the era-defining victories of Margaret Thatcher in 1983 and Tony Blair in 1997.
But May’s lead has shrunk from more than 20 percentage points to as little as five points, according to opinion polls, though all major polls put May in the lead.
After losing a second successive national election in 2015 Labour took a sharp turn to the political left. They picked Corbyn, a rank outsider who just scraped enough nominations to make it into the contest, to lead the party in a new direction.
Corbyn’s drive to align Labour more closely with its socialist roots and eschew the pro-business centrist platform championed by three-time election winner Blair has split the party.
By attracting thousands of zealous young new supporters and re-engaging hard-left activists who had abandoned the party under Blair, Corbyn created a power base that helped him survive an attempted coup by party moderates last year.
His manifesto for re-nationalisation, higher public spending and tax rises for the rich has gone down well with a wide pool of voters, while May has upset core supporters with a plan to make the elderly pay more toward their old age care.
“Support for Labour among younger voters has gone up, and gone up dramatically, but then the crucial question is whether these young people will come out to vote,” said John Curtice, a leading psephologist who is president of the British Polling Council.
Echoing elements of US President Donald Trump’s election-winning rhetoric, Corbyn and senior Labour figures have leveraged strong support on social media by criticising traditional media outlets and stirring an anti-establishment mood.
The latest poll by YouGov for The Times put the Conservatives on 42 per cent, down one point since the end of last week and the party’s lowest rating since before Theresa May called the General Election.Labour gained three points to reach 39 per cent, while the Lib Dems were on seven per cent and Ukip on four. Now, I think if May becomes the next Prime Minister she needs to actively switch on the damage control mode. Else the labor party might pull the biggest election upset for May.