Socialist Worker

Mass rallies for Corbyn can pull the movement leftwards

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2555

Corbyn drew around 3,500 in Hull on Monday night

Corbyn drew around 3,500 in Hull on Monday night (Pic: Neil Terry)


Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has spoken to tens of thousands of people across Britain during the last week. It’s a sign of the energy behind Labour’s campaign, and how his radical policies are enthusing people.

At a 2,000-strong rally in Birmingham ICC concert arena last Saturday, the queue stretched down the street. Hundreds were turned away at the door because they couldn’t get into one of Labour’s largest rallies of the campaign so far.

Caroline, a Labour supporter at the rally, said she had been convinced to vote Labour because of Corbyn’s leadership. “This is the first time in a long time we’ve got a leader in touch with what ordinary people are thinking,” she told Socialist Worker.

“If he gets in, it will transform the way things are done.”

Corbyn’s speech reflected many supporters’ hopes of how a Labour government could build a better society.

After Birmingham, Corbyn headed north for a whistle-stop tour of Merseyside. He urged Labour members to mobilise support for the party at a thousands-strong rally on the South Parade in West Kirby.

Labour took the Wirral West Constituency from the hated Tory minister Esther McVey in the 2015 general election. But Labour MP Margaret Greenwood has a majority of only 417, which means Labour has to mobilise mass support.

In the evening Corbyn received a rapturous reception from 20,000 people as he filled in as The Libertines’ warm-up act at the Wirral Live festival.

Around 3,500 packed into Hull city centre to hear Corbyn speak on Monday. Many brandished placards that said, “Make June the end of May”.

Mobilise

Earlier that day Corbyn drew up to 1,000 people in Scarborough.

Promises of renationalising rail, funding public services and raising wages in the manifesto have boosted party members’ confidence.

Elections aren’t simply won by door knocking but by the mood in society—and these sort of mass mobilisations can help shape that mood.

The Tories’ unveiling of the full-scale brutality of their plans in their manifesto and Labour’s message that there is an alternative have shifted some support.

These rallies show the potential that a more insurgent campaign has, but a bigger shift is needed to beat the Tories.

Many of those at the Birmingham rally saw these sorts of mass rallies as the best way to win. Karl, who came with his two children, told Socialist Worker, “He needs to keep on doing what he’s doing, holding rallies and speaking to people.

“Theresa May is doing the opposite and people are getting fed up with it.”

Viv agreed, “Corbyn is up against it, but his chances are improving. If I was a Tory voter I would be looking at the protests against Theresa May and be concerned.”


Get out and harangue the Tories, they’re weak

Activists are hitting the streets to build support for kicking out the Tories on 8 June.

In several areas they held joint campaigning days, including people both in and outside the Labour Party.

Around 25 people joined campaigning stalls against the Tories in Camden, north London. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed encouraging people to register to vote—and to vote against racism and austerity.

Organisations supporting it included Labour left group Momentum, Keep Our NHS Public, Defend Council Housing, Stand Up To Racism and Unite Community.

Activists got a positive response from people—and met some from neighbouring marginal constituencies.

Activists have agreed to hold another joint day of action next Saturday. They hope to turn it into a street rally in the centre of Camden. A similar event in Bolton brought together groups campaigning over the NHS, schools, fracking and racism among others.

Anti-Tory activists also campaigned in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) held a campaigning stall in Croydon, south London, last Saturday.

Croydon was the scene of a recent racist attack.

Together SUTR and Muslim group Mend produced 50,000 leaflets urging people to register to vote and not to vote for racist policies.

More activities are planned this weekend.

Around 100 people joined a foreign policy question time organised by the Stop the War Coalition last Thursday.

And as Theresa May launched the Tories’ reactionary manifesto in Halifax last Thursday, hundreds of people protested outside.

Whenever the Tory leader is forced to speak to ordinary people her campaign runs into difficulty—that’s why it’s so important to harangue the Tories.


Labour should dump Trident

The Labour right continue to undermine a radical campaign—and push Jeremy Corbyn to compromise.

The latest fight was over Trident nuclear weapons, which Labour has committed itself to renewing at the behest of the right.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said last Friday that she was “sceptical” about the Trident nuclear missile programme and it could be subject to a review if Labour wins the election.

This was immediately rejected by shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, who said the party was “fully committed” to having a nuclear deterrent and that Thornberry was wrong.

Griffith had previously said it was “absolutely vital” for politicians to be willing to use Trident.

Corbyn was forced into saying that the “manifesto makes it very clear that the Labour Party has come to a decision and is committed to Trident”.

Trying to unite with the right and making compromises like this will only undermine Corbyn’s message and his chances.


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