Socialist Worker

Corbyn's surging leadership election campaign leaves Smith floundering

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2514

Jeremy Corbyn at the thousands-strong Leeds rally on Saturday

Jeremy Corbyn at the thousands-strong Leeds rally on Saturday (Pic: Neil Terry)


Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be reelected leader of the Labour Party gained momentum this weekend as thousands marched and rallied in the north of England.

Over 2,000 supporters joined the rally in Leeds last night, Saturday—an even bigger audience than during last year’s leadership race.

Colette Armitage, a student in Leeds, told Socialist Worker, “When Jeremy Corbyn says we have to make the world a better place I believe him.

“He’s had those beliefs forever so it’s not a career for him—he represents something exciting to you as a young person.”

As 1,600 crammed into the Royal Armouries venue, Corbyn had to address an overflow rally of some 600 outside. This was reminiscent of the mass rallies last summer—and a sign of how the movement is growing.

Corbyn had just travelled from Hull where some 3,000 people stood in the baking sun to hear him speak. It was the largest political meeting in the city for many years—and would have struck fear into local right wing Labour MP Alan Johnson.

Membership

Since Corbyn’s election last September membership has grown to some 543,000—and many new members see themselves as part of a bigger movement fighting for change.

Lani, a member of the Labour Party in the Don Valley, has seen her local meeting grow from five to 35 people, “We are at a place where we have an opportunity,” she told Socialist Worker. “I’m 22 and never expected anything like this.”

In another sign of the growing movement people marched through Newcastle on Saturday chanting “Tories out—Corbyn in”. The organisers said that over 1,000 people joined the demonstration.

Lyndsey, a teacher, told Socialist Worker, “Socialism used to be a dirty word, but now they're trying to turn it into a buzzword.

The rally in Hull on Saturday

The rally in Hull on Saturday (Pic: Neil Terry)


"We need more events like this—and get the message out to show more people what Jeremy Corbyn represents”.

The Labour right are going all out to unseat Corbyn with stalking horse candidate Owen Smith, because they fear losing their grip on the party. But ordinary party members are furious with the Labour right’s manoeuvres. Craig, who was on the demonstration in Newcastle, told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

“When we should have been holding the Tories to account the PLP launched a coup straight after the European Union referendum.

“Owen just says whatever's popular—but Jeremy is sticking to his principles and offers a real alternative to the other parties.”

Control

Lani added, “They’ve had control of the party for 20 years—now it’s our turn.”

Smith has tried to talk left, but his campaign has little support among grassroots members. His “rally” in Liverpool on Saturday attracted less than 100—worse than his launch in London last week.

Ben Sellers from Red Labour ran Corbyn’s social media campaign last year. He told Socialist Worker, "For Red Labour it's about winning the battle in the Labour Party.

“But we have to mobilise people in the community to beak it out from just being about the leadership election.

“If we’re going to build a movement it has to involve other people.”

Zayba, a college student in Leeds, described herself as somewhere between the Green Party and Labour. “I agree with his policies but I don’t think Corbyn will get in,” she told Socialist Worker. “If he does, he will be overwhelmed.”

To avoid that means not compromising with the Labour right and looking to where Corbyn’s real strength lies—in the streets and workplaces. That can both bolster Corbyn and help build a movement capable of winning real change within society.

Thanks to Christian Hogsbjerg, Phil Sanderson and Nick Clark

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