With rallies in Liverpool, London and other major cities running out of space, the organisers of Jeremy Corbyn’s labour leadership election rally in Bradford took the hint and opted for an outdoor rally.
Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser
Corbyn himself arrived to almost a rock star reception – to the tune of ‘The Final Countdown’, surrounded by paparrazi to a cheering crowd – except instead of a stadium, he was speaking to around 700 supporters on a cricket pitch.
Those gathered came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but the majority were those enthused by seeing a now prominent political figure that articulated their anti-austerity, pro-working class views, whether they were older activists disillusioned by New Labour or young people getting active for the first time.
Clearly with many of the reported 140,000 new members and 70,000 supporters signed up since the election been Corbyn supporters then it is possible Corbyn could win. But given the attempts to undermine his campaign by the right-wing majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and others, alongside the media – there would be obstacles even after winning the leadership election as the make-up of the platform of the rally showed.
For example, the rally was hosted by newly elected Bradford East MP Imran Hussain. Whilst Hussain gave quite a fighting speech at the rally, he had previously been Deputy Leader of Bradford Council until his election, where the council has recently passed eye-watering levels of cuts.
If Corbyn’s words at the rally saying that we can’t just accept another five years are to be put into practise then as well as MP’s voting to defend jobs, services & welfare, it also means councils refusing to pass on Tory cuts like Bradford Council have. Given Imran Hussain also remains a councillor, then we hope him and other Corbyn supporting local councillors will be voting against further cuts budgets come next February.
Also speaking was Unison regional officer John Cafferty, someone many Unison activists would not consider left-wing. Yet the platform also saw a young student union officer speak reflecting the refreshing change that many would view the anti-austerity, anti-war platform that Corbyn is articulating.
Speaking to several young rally attendees afterwards, then a number admitted having been turned off from voting Labour in the general election as many of the views articulated by party’s leadership seemed like a watered down version of the Tories, several of them had instead voted Green. This viewpoint was echoed at the rally by the left-wing MP for Leeds East, Richard Burgon, commenting that “Many people said on the doorstep ‘I’m not voting Labour as you’re all the same'”
A number of those attending had signed up as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn and see how things develop from there. On the platform a GMB speaker said of Corbyn “He’s the only hope for the Labour Party” whilst Imran Hussain commented “This opportunity (to elect a left-wing labour leader) will not present itself again in a generation”.
Yet the post-election anti-austerity mood, that the reception Corbyn is receiving reflects but also the big demos organised by Socialist Party members and others in cities such as Leeds and Sheffield, will not go away after this leadership contest. After the contest, Corbyn should call a conference of his supporters, but also of the trade unions which support a fighting anti-austerity programme (including those not affiliated to the party) to discuss where next to turn this mood & support into anti-austerity & socialist change.