Britain's Labour party has begun a month-long leadership ballot, with leftist Jeremy Corbyn facing a challenge from Owen Smith. The little-known claims he's more rhetorically skilled to win over Britons at the polls.
Labour's internal ballot began Monday with Smith being endorsed further by the party's Scotland leader Kezia Dugdale. London mayor Sadiq Khan had also come out against Corbyn over the weekend.
Dugdale in her article published in the "Daily Record" newspaper said she did not believe Corbyn could unite the party and "lead us into government, despite signs that he is members' favorite.
Smith, 46, was previously little known outside Briton's Westminster parliament and has described Corbyn as a "misty-eyed" romantic."
Grassroots surge for Corbyn
Corbyn, 67, entered the ballot still the favorite with backing from most trade unions and through a surge in new grassroots members who have joined in recent months, and despite leadership doubts among many Labour parliamentarians.
As ballot papers went out, Corbyn made four key pledges, including plans to turn the House of Lords into an elected upper chamber and to introduce mandatory collective bargaining for companies with over 250 employees.
Last month, Smith called for a "cold-eyed, practical socialist revolution" and - referring to Corbyn - "not some misty-eyed, romantic notion" of returning to a "socialist nirvana."
The internal ballot, which runs until September 21, is open to an estimated 640,000 members, despite a court ruling in early August that 130,000 new signees could not yet eligible.
London's Khan for Smith
On Sunday, London's Khan declared his support for Smith, writing in the "Observer" newspaper that "Jeremy's personal ratings are the worst of any opposition leader on record.
May's ruling conservatives got a 38 percent in a recent YouGov survey, compared to 30 percent for Labour and 13 percent for UK Independence Party (UKIP), a long-time opponent of the European Union.
Corbyn was seen by only 19 percent of those surveyed as the best person to be prime minister, compared to 51 percent for May.
Snap election soon?
Many commentators believe a snap election could soon be called by Britain's new conservative prime minister Theresa May, who replaced David Cameron in the wake of Britain's shock Brexit decision on 23 June.
The result of Labour's internal ballot, which includes online voting forms, is to be announced on 24 September at a special conference in Liverpool.
ipj/jil (AFP, Reuters)