Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told a meeting in east London today, Saturday, that, “The papers say one thing, but the mood on the street tells me something very different.”
He promised the media present that “on 8 June you are going to have some very interesting stories to report”.
There was plenty of support in the room and a deep desire for Labour to win and stop the Tory onslaught.
Corbyn said the general election will be “a clash of interests between working people on the one hand, and the privileged and super-rich on the other”.
He added, “Make no mistake, a Brexit for the few is being cooked up by this government. One where any money saved is handed out as tax cuts to the super-rich and their corporations.”
The audience of around 200 was made up almost entirely of Labour Party members. They applauded strongly when he said that the Tories want people to “blame themselves” for the problems they face.
Corbyn said that he had learned from 34 years as an MP that the most effective way elected representatives could work was to “preserve space for others to organise”. He talked of his pride in helping the movement against apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.
And he recalled his first speech in the House of Commons in 1983, when he condemned “deeply damaging cuts”.
Corbyn called on the people in the room and especially young people to “step up” and denounced a system where 2.4 million young people do not appear on the electoral register. He called on them to register.
There are clear attempts taking place to make Corbyn more “professional”. His event today felt at the start like a traditional Labour campaign occasion. There was an invited audience, careful set, The Temptations “Get ready” and the Velvelettes “He was really saying something” playing as we gathered.
The theme on the podium and the background was “for the many, not the few”. It seems this is being rolled out as an alternative to the Tories’ “strong and stable”.
But it’s a slogan without much content. It was sufficiently “safe” to be at the centre of Tony Blair’s 1995 replacement for Labour’s pro-nationalisation Clause IV, and his 1997 election campaign.
And it was used extensively for Ed Miliband’s 2015 campaign.
Speaking with an autocue and from a script for his initial presentation, Corbyn didn’t quite sound like Corbyn
When it came to the questions he was infinitely better—script abandoned and with many more concrete promises, more left wing, relaxed, funny and convincing.
The biggest response of the day came as he denounced Ukip and said it had “no answers to any of the problems we face”. Its only tactic was to blame “minority A, minority B and minority C. It’s all divide, divide, divide”
Labour has a mountain to climb. Its best chance will come if it runs an insurgent, irreverent campaign based on radical ideas for extraordinary times.
Corbyn needs rallies of thousands—better, tens of thousands—to enthuse and inspire activists and wider groups of supporters.
The very worse strategy is to move rightwards over policy and try to sound like the usual party leaders.
'If Labour wins, at least the attacks will stop'
Labour Party members at the event spoke to Socialist Worker.
Janina, a local health worker, said, “I have never been so excited by an election, or so frightened. I want Jeremy Corbyn to win so much because I think if the Tories get another five years they will disfigure the country forever.
“There won’t be an NHS as we know it now. The social care crisis will come to a tipping point and our elders and our disabled people will be treated as third-class citizens.
“If Labour wins then at least the attacks will stop and we can start to rebuild. I have made it my mission to persuade one person a day to vote Labour. Perhaps it won’t make much difference, but I have to feel I am not just watching the television.”
Nineteen year old David joined Labour recently “entirely because of Jeremy”. He said, “The best thing I have been involved in are the demonstrations in London against Donald Trump. I felt we were really making a difference and I really liked the way Trump didn’t get what he wanted over the immigration ban.”
David is “looking forward to a campaign to help Labour win”.
Design consultant Abigail has been leafleting and canvassing twice for Labour. She says the mood on the doorsteps in “generally quite good—although one person told me that the £10 an hour minimum wage was much too low!
“But you do see how the media line that Jeremy Corbyn is dangerous and extreme gets through to some people. I will work hard for a Labour victory, but I am very nervous about the result and what it will mean.”