Larry Sanders Channels Brother Bernie in UK Election Campaign

Bernie Sanders' older brother is campaigning for a seat in British parliament.

October 19, 2016, 9:16 AM

LONDON— -- Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination may be long over but its progressive message is resonating across the Atlantic in the small English town where his older brother, Larry, is now running for office.

Larry Sanders, a member of U.K. Green Party, is running a longshot campaign for a seat in British parliament in the heavily conservative constituency of Witney, England. Sanders, 81, is a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and has lived in the United Kingdom since 1969.

Thursday’s election in Witney will fill the seat held by former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who also represented the district until his resignation last month. In the most recent general election in the area, the Conservative Party won with over 60 percent of the vote.

The odds haven’t deterred the Brooklyn-born activist, however. “Win or lose, the Green Party doing well would make a bigger impact on the country,” the Oxfordshire resident told ABC News while campaigning in the town center this week.

“And we really need to make this impact because dreadful things are afoot.”

Sanders is competing against 13 other candidates vying for the seat, including politicians from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, which is heavily favored to win.

Like his brother, Sanders has made the fight against economic inequality central to his campaign, focusing specifically on improving funding to the U.K.’s national health service. Sanders began a 30-hour hunger strike Tuesday to raise awareness about what he says is a more than $30 billion shortfall in government funding for the health service.

Some passersby stopped to ask Sanders about his candidacy after spotting the campaign poster advertising his hunger strike. For many, though, the first question was not about the health protest but about his brother.

One man approached the candidate as he handed out leaflets and, after asking whether he was indeed Larry Sanders, said, ‘‘It’s a pity about your brother,” a reference to Bernie’s defeat in the U.S. presidential primary.

Rather than being a distraction, however, the connection to Bernie Sanders has helped to boost the visibility of Larry’s campaign and message among constituents in the area, said Patrick Tew, a volunteer campaign officer who became involved in the Sanders campaign after following his brother’s political efforts in the United States.

“When they hear the name Larry Sanders, they obviously think of the brilliant, progressive campaign of his brother,” Tew said. “So they’re much more interested than normal to hear his ideas.”

And despite the improbability of a Sanders victory this week, the campaign has set its sights on promoting a progressive agenda beyond the election.

“Our interest goes beyond just winning the election,” Tew said. ‘We care about solving the problems. And Larry’s candidacy had really drawn people’s attention in a big way to the [issues] and making sure the government works for all the people.”

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