If you've seen or heard a Jeremy Corbyn speech before, there isn't a great deal to tell. We too often think of the orator as a demagogue, but Jeremy's presentation is as far away from this as possible. His style consists of listing a series of problems and posing a number of solutions. It doesn't require much in the way of theatre nor the raising or lowering of the voice. And herein lies his appeal. As Chris rightly observed in his introduction, the people who label Corbyn's support as a cult don't understand or begin to address the causes of his popularity. The "secret" is he speaks up for an alternative politics that has equality, justice, and the good life at its heart. Jeremy says what was pretty much unsayable in politics for the last 30 years and it's refreshing to hear. For those entirely new this is the first time in their lives socialist ideas have gained any prominence. Jeremy's not-ranty and reasonable style works because these views are plainly stated. They require no spin.
That said, I would offer a couple of comradely criticism's of Jez's speech this lunchtime because, you know, I address rallies of hundreds and thousands regularly too. Firstly, his events are lefty rallies but he shouldn't assume everyone is conversant with the lingo and know what our movement's multiple acronyms mean. For instance, you and I know who the RMT are, but do the few students I spotted from my degree programme? Just prefacing it with something like "the railworkers' union, the RMT ..." might help cut through the blizzard of big letters. The other thing is I'd like to see Jeremy say more things about the party and trade unions. Hold on a minute, isn't that pretty much all he talks about? It's one thing to talk about the good works our unions do, and how we have the largest political party in Europe, but for us to succeed and win we've got to keep piling up the members. The vast bulk of today's audience weren't in the party, and I'd wager a good chunk aren't in a union either. Jeremy absolutely must use his platform to encourage/invite/cajole the crowds to join and join now.
The most interesting thing about today's rally, however, was the crowd. I've been around the block and lost count of the demonstrations, rallies, and other labour movement gatherings I've been on. But what they all had in common, regardless of size, militancy, and politics is their composition: they were all blessed with an over-preponderance of middle-aged men. It was nothing like this earlier. Young and old, women and men, disabled people, mums and dads with prams and pushchairs, it was easily the most mixed political crowd I've been in - even better than last year's Jeremy event. And from the standpoint of what rallies do, and the health of our movement, this is a good thing.
Overall, a job well done. A tired old cynic is what I am, but today I got a sense of the hope more enthusiastic Corbyn supporters feel. And when was that the last time a factor in our politics?