Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the packed out Sheridan Suite in Miles Platting on Saturday evening, outlining his vision for a fair and more equal Britiain to almost 2,000 people.
Corbyn, who was holding his fourth rally of the day, was joined by a panel that included leftwing Labour MPs Cat Smith and Rebecca Long-Bailey, actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and Tameside councillor Leigh Drennan. After an evening of rousing speeches, punctuated by standing ovations and rapturous applause, some seasoned activists described this as the biggest meeting of the left they had ever seen in the city.
Tickets had sold out within nine hours of the event being publicised and the Sheridan Suite was full to capacity. As crowds of eager supporters gathered outside, there was genuine excitement in the air.
Corbyn isn’t just different in that he’s a sincere person, he’s actually got ideas about how to make this country a more democratic and better place for all
“Corbyn isn’t just different in that he’s a sincere person, he’s actually got ideas about how to make this country a more democratic and better place for all,” said Katy, a 25-year-old office administrator from Salford. “Critics focus on his ‘un-electability’ because they’re incapable of challenging his policies – yet they are the people who have lost two general elections and are failing to oppose a brutal and extreme government.”
Corbyn was described by Long-Bailey, who alongside Smith masterminded his last minute entry into the contest, as “everything a stereotypical careerist politician isn’t.” And, after finally taking to the podium, Corbyn confirmed his desire to avoid anything that smacks of personal abuse. “Whatever abuse is thrown, we aren’t replying. We’re doing politics of our own, putting forward ideas,” he said.
In a powerful and engaging speech, Corbyn spoke of regulating the private rental sector, building more social housing, giving greater support to mental health services, approaching the plight of refugees with “humanity and decency” and eradicating homelessness – an issue of particular significance in Manchester after a week in which the City Council served papers to the homeless camp now situated on Oxford Road.
Austerity is a political decision. You cannot cut your way to prosperity
Deafening applause filled the room when the veteran socialist vowed that the first thing he would do in opposition is challenge the austerity agenda: “Austerity is a political decision. You cannot cut your way to prosperity,” he said. Corbyn asked his supporters to meet and engage others from across the region and to welcome them into the movement. “When you campaign together, you never know where those dreams will go. The enthusiasm of so many is powerful.” It is undeniable, with Corbyn’s campaign now boasting over 13,000 volunteers, that this is a huge social movement – not unsimilar to the Independence campaign that politicised a generation in Scotland last summer.
“It’s great to be a part of something that is going to change the way that people in this country think,” said Richard from Stockport. Some of Corbyn’s critics within Labour have claimed that he is only interested in changing the conversation and not in winning power, but the feeling among his backers is that by challenging the dominant narrative of within Westminster and the tabloid press – with ideas and a message of optimism – profound change is achievable.
With 12th September, the day on which the leadership result is announced, approaching, attacks on the Corbyn campaign will continue to intensify. But what’s going on up and down the country has already outgrown the mere question of who will be the next Labour leader: “Whatever happens in two week’s time, we will still be here – that is what is so exciting,” said Corbyn. “This is a movement. It is a release of imagination. It’s about community.”
First Published in the Manchester Mule on Sept 1st 2015