Veteran far-left lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, a runaway victory that threatens to further divide the party as it struggles to recover from a heavy defeat in elections earlier this year.
[caption id="attachment_125012" align="aligncenter" width="700"]
eremy Corbyn waves on stage after new 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)[/caption]
The 66-year-old, who strongly opposes the government's austerity policies and Britain's membership of NATO, was considered an outsider but in recent months became the runaway favorite over three more mainstream rivals to win Saturday.
Cheers and applause erupted in the London conference venue as it was announced that Corbyn won almost 60 percent of the vote, far ahead of his closest rival, Andy Burnham, who scored 19 percent. Some 422,664 votes were cast.
Corbyn's win represents a strong rejection of the more centrist policies of his predecessors and marks a sharp left turn for the party.
Many senior leaders in the party oppose Corbyn, and many — including former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown — had issued public warnings strongly urging voters to reject Corbyn, arguing that his socialist ideas will alienate moderate voters and make Labour unelectable.
Blair, who led Labour to three consecutive election victories, said his party faced "annihilation" under Corbyn.
But Corbyn attracted scores of enthusiastic new members and supporters to the party, many of them young and dissatisfied with British politics.
Corbyn succeeds Ed Miliband, who stepped down after the May general election.