Over 1,000 Labour Party members and supporters came to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak in Aberdare in South Wales today, Saturday. It was the biggest political meeting in the Valleys for a generation.
It showed the strength of support by ordinary Labour members for Corbyn’s leadership. Julia said, “There’s some people that are still too Blairite, but the grassroots of the Labour Party support him.
“All the stuff the media is saying about Jeremy Corbyn being unelectable is nonsense—we can definitely win in 2020.”
Martin from nearby Merthyr Tydfil added, “He’s very popular in the party—lots of people have made up their minds already.”
The meeting was organised by Cynon Valley Labour Party for the annual Keir Hardie lecture to commemorate one of the party's founders.
Corbyn told the meeting, “Our party would not have achieved what it’s done in the last century without Keir Hardie’s clarity and vision. But many of our members and supporters feel that Labour lost its way.
“One of the turning points was the debate on welfare—I’m glad that we’ve come round to total opposition to the Welfare Bill.”
Many people said they it felt as if they'd got the party back from the right. Nigel said, “Jeremy is the first person to speak sense in years. Labour in the general election was a total sham—Ed Miliband was just Tory-lite.
Julie agreed, “There needed to be a big change from New Labour. I support him because he’s principled and much more in line with our socialist beliefs.”
The meeting comes ahead of the Welsh Assembly in May. The right will use any poor result from them and the London Mayoral and English council elections to launch further attacks on the Corbyn leadership.
Nigel said, “I totally disagree with the Blairites—they can get rid of the people who are against Corbyn.”
Gareth, the Unison union Cardiff and Vale health branch chair, said, “They are just doing damage to the Labour Party—our only alternative to the Tories.
‘They should be rallying behind the leadership. He’s doubled the membership—of course he can win.”
However, it’s not just Blairites who are attacking Corbyn. During Tony Blair’s leadership, Welsh Labour played up its left wing credentials, but now first minister Carwyn Jones has distanced himself from Corbyn.
This shows that opposition to Corbyn comes from the “soft left” and some union leaders. Many at the Aberdare meeting weren’t sure why Jones has done this and said it could be “damaging” to Labour.
The pressure is to join the Labour Party and support the Corbyn leadership in internal battles.
To thunderous applause Corbyn told the meeting “A proud son of this area, the general secretary of the PCS union Mark Serwotka has joined the Labour Party. He is very welcome.”
People were angry at the Tories’ attacks, but the focus was definitely on what a Labour government would do if elected in 2020.
Corbyn ,“We’re going to fight the Trade Union Bill in the House of Commons. When we’re elected, we’ll repeal it and replace it with all the good ideas that come out of Workplace 2020.”
Workplace 2020 will be a new initiative chaired by former miners' union leader and Labour MP Ian Lavery.
But not everyone was convinced. Martin said, “I joined Labour when I was 16 and was very active, but left when Blair got rid of Clause 4. I’m still thinking about rejoining, but I’m not sure if it’s going to work.
“I don’t trust Labour—it is so full of corrupt people who won’t let this happen.”
Around 500 people had marched against the Trade Union Bill in Cardiff earlier that afternoon and Corbyn had addressed them.
Corbyn's policies will not be defended by appeals to Labour unity, compromises with the right or internal manoeuvres.
It’s in fighting—not waiting for a Labour victory—where the strength of both Corbyn and the labour movement lies.