Several thousand people rallied outside parliament this evening, Monday, in defence of left wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Hundreds more joined similar rallies in Newcastle and Manchester to defend Corbyn against moves by Labour MPs to get rid of him.
Labour left group Momentum, which organised the London rally said 10,000 turned out to support Corbyn. It came as Corbyn faced Labour MPs and peers inside parliament, who were meeting to debate a motion of no confidence in his leadership.
The rallies had the feel of Corbyn’s huge public meetings during his leadership election campaign last year.
Speaking at the rally in London, Corbyn reflected the reasons why many of his supporters voted for him last year. He said, “We’re absolutely the spirit of hope—not the spirit of despair”. He also said Labour supporters needed to build a “politics of unity” to beat austerity.
But the rallies were also angry and defiant. It's incredible and appallling that just when all the attention should be on the Tories' problems, the right has divided Labour.
Chants of "Tories out—Corbyn in" rang out across Parliament Square in London and at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle city centre.
Labour activist Daniel Kebede was at the Newcastle rally. He told Socialist Worker, “It was very angry. There were shouts of ‘shame on you’ whenever someone mentioned the name of a shadow cabinet minister who has resigned”.
Labour MPs launched a campaign to unseat Corbyn yesterday, Sunday. They claim they have lost confidence in Corbyn’s ability to lead the party after the result of last week’s EU referendum.
In reality they are outraged that their members and supporters defied them to elect a left wing leader last year. They have been looking for an opportunity to get rid of him ever since and take back control of the party.
Many of those at the rallies this evening were furious at the MPs' contempt for their own members and supporters.
School student Yan was at the London rally. He told Socialist Worker, “The Labour Party is trying to get rid of its democratically elected leader. It's’re using Brexit as an excuse to do that.
“This is ignoring the decision of the people who voted for Corbyn and the many people who joined Labour after.”
Another supporter, Christine Campbell said, “I joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. But if they keep this up there won’t be a credible left wing alternative to vote for. It’s a Blairite coup.
“I’ve written to my MP and said if she does anything to remove Corbyn she won’t have my vote at the next general election”.
Daniel said, “There was a feeling that the Parliamentary Labour Party is very detached from the membership. That they just don’t know what they’re doing—that they’re in some ivory tower.
“Everyone realises that the time is now to take on the Tories. And these people are creating some kind of infight”.
More than half of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have resigned over the past two days—and many more shadow ministers. Other Labour MPs and candidates have joined calls on Corbyn to resign. And the vote of confidence in Corbyn is set to take place tomorrow, Tuesday.
Their plan is to pressure Corbyn into resigning or calling a new leadership election.
Yet Corbyn has so far defied the attempts to oust him. He has insisted that if Labour MPs want a new leadership election they need to find a candidate to challenge him.
The size of the rallies tonight show Corbyn is backed up by huge support among Labour’s membership and supporters. He is also boosted by the support of a number of trade unions and some allied Labour MPs.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke at the London rally. He said, “Let me be absolutely clear. Jeremy Corbyn is not resigning. If there is another election Jeremy Corbyn will be standing again.
“We are not going anywhere”.
He added, “This is not about any individual. This is about the democracy of the movement.
“In the next few weeks we want you to stand in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn and the politics he represents”.
Diane Abbott, who was today appointed Corbyn’s shadow health secretary, said, “I will continue to support Corbyn in private, in public, in parliament, in the media.” Labour MPs Angela Smith, Richard Burgon and Dennis Skinner also spoke at the rally.
Trade union general secretaries also turned out to support Corbyn. Matt Wrack of the Firefighters’ FBU union said, “Those people in parliament think they can organise a coup behind closed doors. I challenge them to come out and face the people.
“What an utter disgrace they are”.
Tosh McDonald, Ronnie Draper and Dave Ward of the Aslef, Bfawu and CWU unions also spoke. And Mark Serwotka of the PCS union also sent a message of solidarity. Earlier today Unison, one of Britain’s biggest unions released a statement supporting Corbyn.
The pressure on Corbyn from his own MPs to resign will be immense. But Yan said, “Events like this can show there is support for him.”
Bob, another supporter, said, Look at the crowd here—what other politician has this kind of support?”
Mobilising that support for Corbyn in the workplaces and on the streets—and feeding it into movements against austerity and racism—will be crucial to defend him. Everyone on the left should defend Corbyn against the right.
The demonstration called by Stand Up to Racism and the People's Assembly on 16 July will be very important.