Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be re-elected leader of the Labour Party kicked off with two big rallies last week.
The largest saw as many as 1,800 people fill the Lowry theatre in Salford, Greater Manchester, last Saturday.
The size of the rally reflected the huge support Corbyn has among Labour members and supporters.
Corbyn said mobilising that support was the key to winning Labour’s leadership election—and winning change.
Corbyn pointed out that Labour’s membership had grown to around 540,000 since he was first elected as leader last September.
“We are a social movement,” he said. “We have become a mass party, a mass organisation. Our party is changing—politics is changing. It needed to change.”
He told supporters, “You are that change. You are the ones that will change politics.”
It followed a similar rally of at least 200 in central London last Wednesday, where Corbyn made a surprise appearance.
The mood at the rallies reflected the optimism many Corbyn supporters have about winning the leadership election. And they were a reminder of why so many people supported Corbyn.
Robert Meyersm, who was at the London rally, told Socialist Worker, “I’ve only recently joined Labour.
“It seems like this is a crucial moment to not just vote for a party but to vote for policies.”
Student Elena Christodoulou said, “It’s important for younger people to get involved. Cobryn’s campaigning for things that will benefit us.”
But there was also anger that Labour MPs are trying to drag the party back to the right. Many were furious that a number of MPs had accused Corbyn supporters of bullying (see below).
Corbyn-supporting MP Richard Burgon condemned the attacks on Labour members. He said, “I cannot stand by and see every one of you portrayed as thugs, bullies or misogynists.”
Elena was frustrated that local Labour Party meetings had been suspended during the campaign.
She said, “I’ve been trying to get involved with my Constituency Labour Party. That’s more difficult now that they’ve banned branch meetings.”
And Camilla, a north London housing campaigner, was angry at the £25 fee that new Labour members and supporters had to pay to vote.
She said, “I think it’s disgusting that we’ve had to pay £25. I had to re-organise my finances for this month to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. It’s even worse that some Labour Party members can’t vote.”
Corbyn’s enemies say Labour can’t win elections under his leadership. But Labour increased its vote share in 11 out of 12 council by-elections last week.
Corbyn argued that building Labour as a social movement was key to winning elections.
He said, “We will only win the next election because we are a movement of people all around the country who want to see a different world.
“Change comes because people want that change to come.”
Channelling Corbyn’s support into movements against austerity and racism can defeat the Labour right—and the Tories.
Owen Smith's supporters use smears and fake leftism to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
Labour MP Owen Smith became the only challenger to Jeremy Corbyn after Angela Eagle dropped out of the race last Tuesday.
Smith eventually won the backing of 162 Labour MPs and ten Labour MEPs who saw him as a “unity” candidate capable of taking on Corbyn.
Smith has tacked left with a series of “radical and credible” election pledges, such as renationalising the railways and reintroducing the 50p tax rate for the rich.
Labour MPs’ support for Smith’s plan shows they have been forced to accommodate to the membership, which overwhelmingly backs Corbyn.
But Smith has also attacked Corbyn’s left wing politics as “just hot air” on the basis that he could supposedly never lead Labour to an election victory.
Smith claimed, “In me you have someone just as radical as Jeremy. I will bow to no one in terms of my socialist belief. My heroes are Nye Bevan and Keir Hardie, great Labour titans.”
Smith also compared Corbyn to notorious Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley last Friday. A Commons committee report released the same day found Sports Direct workers suffered “appalling” conditions.
Smith ludicrously suggested that Corbyn treated his MPs in the same way that Ashley treats his workers.
In the same week a number of Labour’s female MPs wrote a letter to Corbyn highlighting sexist abuse they had received.
They pinned the blame on Corbyn supporters and insinuated that Corbyn had turned a blind eye.The letter also called on Corbyn to condemn “campaigning outside MPs offices, surgeries etc.”
More bizarre attacks on Corbyn included allegations that he had threatened to ring an MP’s dad to complain, and that one of his aides had walked into another MP’s office.
The plan is to sap away wavering Corbyn supporters by undermining him while talking left. But the size of Corbyn’s rallies suggests that plan is doomed to fail.