LONDON — Uncorking the spirit of British socialism was the masterstroke that handed Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Party's top job but he now faces a much bigger challenge — convincing voters that an admirer of Karl Marx should be Britain's next prime minister.
Virtually unknown just months ago, the 66-year-old won the crown of Britain's second largest political party with 59.5 percent of the votes cast in an internal party vote.
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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 Labour leader Tony Blair and offered wealth taxes, nuclear disarmament and ambiguity about EU membership.
The victory gives Corbyn a mandate to take the 115-year old party back to its socialist roots and throw out the political rulebook that says British elections can only be won with the support of the center ground.
"We challenge the narrative that only the individual matters, and the collective is irrelevant," Corbyn said at his last campaign rally on Thursday, drawing cheers from a crowd crammed into every corner of a former church in north London.
"Instead we say the common good is the aspiration of all of us," said the anti-war campaigner, who is an admirer of "Communist Manifesto" author Karl Marx and Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan leader who delighted in berating the United States.
Often dressed in the style of a university lecturer — complete with several pens visible in his shirt pocket — Corbyn has promised to renationalize privately-owned industries, print money to fund large-scale infrastructure investment, and raise taxes on businesses and the rich.
He rarely uses the first person 'I' — a trait that advisers say reflects his desire to lead Labour without what he calls "top-down control-freakery" — code for the tight control exercised when Tony Blair was Labour leader from 1994-2007.
"Things can and they will change," Corbyn, said in a victory speech which began with criticism of the British media and ended with a vow to achieve justice for the poor and downtrodden.