HOW would you feel if your brother was in the United States battling Hillary Clinton to become the next Democratic Presidential candidate? That’s the question I put to Larry Sanders at his home in East Oxford.

The former leader of the Green party on Oxfordshire County Council told me “It’s difficult to describe seeing my little brother Bernie on the campaign stump.

“I came very near to tears at first, but time and time again I’ve seen the warmth, not just the cheering. I think a lot of them love him.

“That bodes ill for Hillary because Bill Clinton once said when it comes to picking Presidential candidates the Republicans fall in line but the Democrats fall in love.

“I’m getting a little more blasé now. I’m not surprised by what he’s saying, how he’s connecting and the response from the crowds.

“My reaction is not ‘Oh my God’. It’s more like ‘Oh my God, it’s happening again’.”

We sat at the kitchen table in Larry Sanders’ two-up-two-down terraced house. There was no sign of the transatlantic battle raging at the heart of American politics except a discreet, tasteful magnetic name plate sticking to the door of his fridge that said, simply, “Bernie”.

There’s nothing else to indicate the turmoil going on in Iowa where a late surge in the polls has brought Bernie to a neck-and-neck position with Hillary ahead of the first Democratic candidate vote on February 1.

This kitchen is a completely different, calm world – pine floors, pine table, a pine pew and pine dressers holding pottery made by Larry’s wife Janet. I asked if he would mind if I described his house. “No problem, he said.” Just don’t mention the dirty dishes in the sink.”

I took Larry back across the Atlantic. Was he surprised by his brother’s success?

“I thought Bernie would make a big splash. What he is saying is that most people in the US are not getting a good deal in terms of economics. It’s far worse in the US than it is here.

“When you have someone who says it clearly and doesn’t stop, something is going to happen. I’m just surprised at the speed with which it happened.”

The killer question is: can Bernie Sanders win the nomination? His brother was thoughtful. “I think he could win. He’s turned his weakness into his strength. Bernie has no big financial resources or backers, but he’s solved the question of money in US politics.

“The conventional wisdom has been that you can’t become President if you’re not rich. He’s getting millions of small contributions.

“The average is $27.00 (£19) each. So far, and we are at the start of the campaign, he’s received two and a half million of these contributions.

“When Obama ran he had two million of them by the end of his campaign. In just one day last week $980,000 dropped into Bernie’s expanding war chest.

“This is a strength as voters see Bernie as someone who is important to them and they appreciate he is not beholden to anyone.

“If you get $100,000 from a donor, that person expects something, so if Bernie gets an average donation of $27.00 nobody expects anything from him.

“Bernie is tapping into a feeling of disappointment and anger at not being treated well. What made life bearable in the US for so long is this attitude that ‘I’m not doing too great but my kids will do better’.

“Of course there were exceptions with groups that had very little hope like the blacks and people affected by the credit crunch, but for most Americans that formula worked.

“Now when I talk to voters in Bernie’s campaign it is clear that the kids are not doing well. They work very hard for very little.”

I asked if the basis of support for his brother could all be based so narrowly on anger. Larry argued that his brother’s support was broad and based on ideals.

“The US was born out of a revolution that rejected the European class structure and proclaimed everyone was created equal,” he said.

Oxford Mail:

  • Right, Larry, left, and Bernie Sanders

“Americans have expectations of what a ‘good society’ looks like and it doesn’t include treating people like mushrooms – feeding them political manure and keeping them in the dark.

“For instance, there is no medical support or insurance for some 25 to 30 million Americans even after Obama’s reforms.

“Many in the US are under-insured or have a co-payment policy where the insurance covers part of the cost and you cough up the rest, and many people can’t.

“Bernie wants to guarantee healthcare as a right of citizenship by enacting a Medicare-for-all programme similar to the NHS.”

I asked Larry about the most popular policy in his brother’s campaign: “The voters know he is the candidate least likely to go to war because in his speeches Bernie says he doesn’t think US troops should be involved in the “quagmire” of the Middle East, that’s when he gets the best applause.”

Larry and Bernie grew up in the New York Borough of Brooklyn in the 1940s. Did Larry notice any childhood signs of what his brother would get up to in his 70s? “Those days we lived on the streets. We controlled them and played games like baseball and soccer. There were no adults.

“We formed an egalitarian society, a group that made its own decisions with no outside authority. If we had disagreements, and there were some, they had to be decided within the group. We took control and that illustrates his background and, I think, influenced him.

“In high school, generally like the English Sixth Form, he was a cross-country runner, going up and down hills in very muddy conditions. He always finished the race and that took persistence and endurance and bags of character. That’s why I think he’ll go through to the bitter end of this fight.

“I’ll be there at the end. I’ll attend the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia this July.

“Americans in the UK can have a say on the choice of candidate in that convention by joining ‘Democrats Abroad’. It’s free and if you join before February you can vote by post, fax or scan-and-email at”

I asked Larry what will happen if his brother doesn’t win. “Bernie is saying that when a society decides it can’t afford housing for the poor, benefits for the jobless and healthcare for the sick that doesn’t make sense, and if you accept that it’s a victory for a certain class of people. You can change it.

“There are people working in civil rights groups and women’s groups who know things don’t change unless there is a force coming from below. These groups will not go away after polling day.”