Thousands of people have rallied in Manchester and Liverpool in support of left wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The rallies follow days of attacks on Corbyn from Labour MPs who are trying to force him out.
Some 3,000 people turned out at the rally in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens yesterday, Friday. At least 1,000 more rallied in Liverpool today.
Ron from Manchester was at the rally in Piccadilly Gardens. He told Socialist Worker, “It was very angry and bitter—the feeling from people was, who are these MPs who are trying to get rid of Corbyn?
“But the spirit of it was very good. Despite the terrible weather people were still turning up even as the rally was finishing. It’s one of the biggest demonstrations Manchester has had in years.”
The rally was also the biggest so far outside London since the attempts to remove Corbyn became apparent last Sunday.
Its organisers, Manchester trades council and Labour left group Momentum, went ahead with it despite calls from the Labour leader of Manchester City Council council to cancel it.
Council leader Richard Leese said it would be “wholly inappropriate” to hold the rally on the same day as commemorations for the Battle of the Somme.
Commemorations for the battle took place elsewhere in Manchester city centre and finished hours before the rally began.
Leese had emailed other Labour councillors in Manchester to tell them that attending the rally would “be seen by many Manchester residents to be highly disrespectful and I would advise strongly against it.”
Earlier in the week twelve Manchester Labour councillors along with hundreds of others from across Britain signed a letter calling on Corbyn to resign. Only one Labour councillor—Julie Reed—joined the rally to support Corbyn.
The rallies come as reports emerged suggesting that Labour MPs, led by their deputy leader Tom Watson, had tried to encourage Corbyn to step down.
They had tried to negotiate a deal for Corbyn to “retire with dignity”, promising that a future leader would adopt some of his left wing policies.
Watson wants to avoid a leadership contest which could split the party. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs want Corbyn out. But Corbyn still has huge support from Labour’s members and supporters.
Corbyn had previously said he wouldn’t “betray” his supporters by standing down. And Momentum national organiser James Schneider today said that if MPs wanted to get rid of Corbyn they would have to launch a leadership contest. “They need to find a candidate, they need to find a platform and they need to go for it”, he said.
“But they don't have a candidate who can beat Jeremy Corbyn.”
Labour MP Angela Eagle had been expected to launch a leadership challenge earlier this week. But by Friday she appeared to have held back, with some reports suggesting she would postpone her challenge until sometime next week.
Corbyn also got backing from two trade union leaders speaking at the Marxism festival hosted by the Socialist Workers Party in central London yesterday.
CWU union general secretary Dave Ward said, “There will be a leadership contest and we have to hold our nerve. I don’t care what candidate comes forward, we’ll carry on supporting Corbyn”.
Bfawu union president Ian Hodson attacked the 172 Labour MPs who voted for a motion of no confidence in Corbyn last Tuesday. He said, “Those 172 MPs—tell us what polices you disagree with.
“If they want a war they can have one with us—because we aren’t going to give up”.
Ten union leaders signed a letter against attempts to remove Corbyn last Thursday. But the letter stopped short of explicit support for Corbyn.
It is good that Corbyn has strong support from some union leaders—and it is vital that others don’t abandon him.
Union activists have to pressure their leaders to keep up their support for Corbyn. They should demand that their unions refuse any funding for Labour MPs who voted against Corbyn’s leadership.
And Corbyn’s supporters also have to keep mobilising on the streets to defend him. More rallies were set to take place today in Exeter, Penzance and Plymouth this weekend, and a public meeting in Islington, north London, on Monday.
Rallies such those in Manchester and Liverpool are the best way to defend Corbyn against the right.