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Yui Mok/PA
Underdog

'I was clearly wrong': How Jeremy Corbyn confounded expectations in the UK's election

He received massive praise yesterday from some of his harshest critics.

LABOUR LEADER JEREMY Corbyn has repeatedly beaten the odds in his long and colourful political career and he appears to have done so again, leaving his critics in the awkward position of having to issue climbdowns after an unexpectedly strong result in Britain’s national election.

The 68-year-old socialist stalwart began his election campaign as rank outsider – a status he turned to his advantage – and experts said the results mean internal party rumblings against his leadership will be toned down.

Labour MP Owen Smith, who stood against Corbyn in Labour’s leadership election last year once remarked that his rival’s political principles were “just hot air”.

His views took a remarkable turn after Labour’s election success Thursday night. “I was clearly wrong in feeling that Jeremy was unable to do this well and I think he’s proved me wrong and lots of people wrong and I take my hat off to him,” he told the BBC.

“I don’t know what Jeremy’s got but if we could bottle it and drink it we’d all be doing very well,” Smith added.

We were hearing people who hadn’t voted for a long while voting Labour yesterday evening, who were inspired by the policies, and it has to be said by Jeremy, to vote Labour last night.

Brexit

Drawing comparisons to Bernie Sanders in the United States, Corbyn on the campaign trail railed against the establishment and harnessed public angst over Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership in turbulent times.

After an exit poll and near-complete results suggested the Conservatives may have lost their majority and Labour may have come a strong second, Corbyn yesterday said voters had “turned their backs on the politics of austerity”.

May and the right-leaning tabloids lambasted Corbyn as ill-prepared to face the challenges of terrorism and Brexit, even branding him a threat to the nation.

But Corbyn was able to score unexpected points against May during the bitterly fought campaign, casting her as cold and uncaring on social welfare reforms and reckless on police funding cuts during her tenure as interior minister.

Relaxed and tie-less, he came across at lively rallies as an amiable underdog making a principled stand for society’s poorest and managed to appeal to many younger voters.

“Jeremy Corbyn appears to have been vindicated,” said Mike Finn, politics researcher at the University of Warwick.

“It seems now clear that his approach to Labour politics resonates with the public and he is undeniably strengthened,” he said.

‘Hopeless’

Among those emerging with their tails between their legs today were political commentators and journalists who admitted, quite frankly, that they got it completely wrong when it came to Corbyn’s abilities as a leader.

The Independent’s John Rentoul referred to himself as “hopeless” writing yesterday about his election predictions.

“I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn. I had already been wrong about him twice. I thought he would come fourth in the Labour leadership election in 2015, and I thought that, when he was exposed to the British public in an election campaign, Labour’s support would go down,” he wrote.

But I do try to learn from my mistakes, and so, knowing that I had been wrong about him, I tried to offset my own bias. I didn’t do a good job.

Ayesha Hazarika, former special adviser to Ed Miliband, has written several critical opinion pieces about the Labour leader for The Guardian. She had this to say, writing for the newspaper yesterday:

“I got it wrong on Corbyn. He ripped up the political rules from the minute he decided to stand for the Labour leadership.”

- With reporting from AFP.

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