Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is taking his message to Great Britain and Ireland, appearing at six events during an action-packed four days beginning June 1.
The mini-tour is designed to promote the British paperback release of Sanders’ book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. The dates coincide with a long weekend in the U.S. Senate’s calendar, so if his travel arrangements come off without a hitch, he won’t miss any days at work.
News of his tour was not easy to come by. We first caught wind of it via several reports in the British and Irish press, though there appeared to be no official tour announcement. The senator’s office, meanwhile, was no help whatsoever; we inquired after hearing of tour stops in Dublin and Oxford, and got the following terse emailed response from Sanders staffer Josh Miller-Lewis:
“It is a book event. You should contact the publisher.”
Well, okay, so it’s a book event. Er, two events, actually. But it’s hard to believe that Sanders’ office doesn’t know where the guy is going, even if another party is making the arrangements. What if they need to reach him on a moment’s notice?
We inquired again, which produced this nonresponse:
“His book events are completely separate from his Senate work. We don’t have anything to do with that itinerary.”
Please bear in mind that Miller-Lewis’ salary is courtesy of the American taxpayer, and one of his duties is responding to press inquiries or routing them to someone who can.
We then contacted Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s campaign organization. “We are told to tell everyone that the publisher is handling all his book events,” said campaign staffer Grady Kennison. “There are a lot of boundaries between his book tour, us handling the campaign and his senatorial staff.”
As for who’s paying Sanders’ travel expenses, neither Miller-Lewis nor Kennison could speak definitively, although Kennison assumed that the publisher is paying the freight.
Okay, so on to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Our efforts there met with failure. Emails and phone calls to the publicity department were not returned.
And they wonder why the book trade is in trouble.
Left to our own devices, we ferreted out details of Sanders’ tour through various sources online. What we discovered was that five of the six events are sold out — and at prices that seem a little out of whack for hearing a politician pump his own book. A Democratic Socialist, at that.
The ticket prices available online ranged from 15 euros, or about $16.50, to a whopping 35 British pounds, or $45 and some change.
To be fair, you do get a free copy of the book for your 35 quid.
Sanders’ tour comes less than a week before Britain’s June 8 parliamentary election, which is looking like a sweep for the ruling Conservative Party. In a recent polling average, the Tories had a nearly 20-point edge over the Labor Party.
Labor’s embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn has been openly pleading for an endorsement from Sanders. The Guardianreports:
Asked if Sanders would endorse him when he visited Britain, the Labour leader said: “I can’t say. I hope he will. I think he probably will, actually. But we mustn’t predict these things.”
Spoken like a man down 20 points in the polls.
Corbyn’s hopes may go a-glimmering, to judge by this brutal assessment in the same article from Tad Devine, chief strategist for Sanders’ presidential campaign:
“Bernie Sanders had a great ability to connect with people at a basic level. People connected with him. Jeremy Corbyn does not strike me as someone who makes that kind of connection.”
The Guardian also notes that a Corbyn nod “could create some family complications for Sanders” because the senator’s brother Larry is a Green Party candidate for Parliament. Sanders could endorse both, of course; but he might just decide to sidestep any family drama — not to mention the potential embarrassment of supporting Corbyn, a candidate who seems destined for a historic, career-ending defeat.
Here’s the rundown on the Sanders tour, from what we’ve found online:
June 1: the Brighton Festival, 1,800 seats, sold out at 15 pounds per ticket.