Tuesday 16 August 2016

Jeremy Corbyn in Derby

12pm on a Tuesday in the middle of August perhaps isn't the best time ever to hold a rally, but the odd scheduling did nothing to depress turnout at Jeremy Corbyn's rally in Derby city centre earlier today. I'd say between 500-600 assembled in the summer sun to listen to what the Labour leader had to say, as well as a few others. Again, like last year's rally at the Roundhouse the former Derby North MP Chris Williamson oversaw proceedings.

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?


Anonymous said...

Not there, but what we need is hope

Gary Elsby said...

Undoubtedly running towards Neil Kinnock's final General Election and certainly from 1994-97 with Tony.
The enthusiasm of Labour members and supporters was, and remains, electric.
There was a great deal of substance on the table at those points, even if many Labour members disagreed with the finite detail.
I don't think Jeremy is at that level yet but I have all the time in the world hoping this will happen.

Alex Ross said...

I guess people respond to different types of argument in different ways. As a data geek (which is my job, btw), I couldn't be more bored than listening to a political speech at a rally (unless the speaker is the living resurrection of Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela - in which case I might make an exception!!). It's not that I don't care about my fellow human beings...I just prefer looking at databases and spreadsheets to work out the best and most practical ways of doing so. So much of the Corbyn "brand" seems to rely on appeals to "tradition" and nostalgia...and it doesn't really work for me...

Aside from that, some humility would be a good start...Corbyn has got a lot of things wrong (from signing an early day motion to question genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia (based on shoddy evidence) to embracing known anti-semite Raed Salah to appointing creepy Stalinist Milne to endorsing the silly "Putin's aggression all the EU's fault" narrative). I don't mind people getting things wrong...I've held numerous stupid opinions (and probably still do). But would be nice if he was able to say I was talking bollocks...or acting stupidly. But he won't, because those political ideologies are part of his political DNA.

Paul Ewart said...

Good to know you have access to those ancient and uncontested verities 'right' and 'wrong' Alex. Equally good to see that your able to extend your critical, data-oriented worldview to matters of politics, ideology and news......

Alex Ross said...

Well...I think a data-orientated view can tell a lot about politics and ideology. Jonathan Haidt's work (for example) is very interesting in building an understanding on why people think the way they do and why certain political conflicts are so vicious. I'm not claiming it tells us everything...my initial point was that different people respond differently to different forms of argument.

And, I don't think it takes any special access to moral certainties to see that Corbyn was acting wrongly, for example, in rushing to minimise war crimes on the basis of an ideological hunch...crimes which have now been proved by a forensic attention to detail.

Blissex said...

«has equality, justice, and the good life at its heart.»

That's rather simplistic: the appeal of new labour and conservative politics has «the good life at its heart» too, just for their voters of course.

Some blairite criticism of that radical progressive movement guy G Brown:

«Although Mr Brown talks a lot about aspiration, he means it in the sense that people at the bottom of the pile should be able to get to the middle, rather than that those in the middle should aspire to get a little bit further towards the top.
His preoccupations with child poverty, Africa and banning plastic bags are all very worthy - but they leave the conservatory-building classes thinking: what about us?
The Government's obsession with stopping the middle classes "rigging" the school admissions system - rather than actually improving the results - exacerbates the sense that Mr Brown is frowning at parents who want to do the best for their children.
His talk of "opportunity for all" somehow conveys a vague sense of disapproval of ballet lessons and Carluccio's and Charlie and Lola. The Budget, with its tax rises for wine drinkers and 4x4 drivers, confirmed the feeling of these hard-working families that they were under attack.»

««Labour will not win the next election by relying on disaffected leftwing Liberal Democrat voters, but will also have to frame policies that are attractive to former Conservative voters in the south, the shadow cabinet member Caroline Flint has said.»
«Flint, the shadow energy secretary, also holds a position as the party's champion for the south-east. She writes: "We have to win votes from the Tories as well as from the Liberal Democrats. The collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote alone will not be enough to win in 2015. We have to continue to focus on those voters who supported Labour in 1997 but voted Conservative in 2010."
She adds: "We went into the last general election promising a 'future fair for all', but too often, when we thought we were talking about fairness, we were actually talking about need." She claims that for many swing voters in the south-east "fairness is as much about exchange – taking out once you have put in – as it is about need. They want 'fairness for my family as well.'"»

Unknown said...

Facebook tells me that this post "includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive".

Oh well.

Blissex said...

««has equality, justice, and the good life at its heart.»

That's rather simplistic: the appeal of new labour and conservative politics has «the good life at its heart» too, just for their voters of course.»

Related to New Labour and Conservatives also wanting "the good life", but only for their constituency, I have just found again a very "contemporary" quote from T Benn's diary, dated 1986-03-24, and I hope people here don't mind my quotes too much:

«The Party's Campaign Strategy committee, where four men and a woman from something called the Shadow Agency made a presentation.
They flashed onto a screen quotes which were supposed to be typical of Labour voters, for example: “IT'S NICE TO HAVE A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE BUT IT'S YOUR FAMILY THAT COUNTS.”
What we were being told, quite frankly, was what you can read every day in the Sun, the Mail, the Daily Express, and the Telegraph. It was an absolute waste of money.
Labour was associated with the poor, the unemployed, the old, the sick, the disabled, pacifists, immigrants, minorities and the unions, and this was deeply worrying. The Tories were seen to have the interests of everyone at heart including the rich. Labour was seen as yesterday's party.
I came out feeling physically sick.»

That was 30 years ago! Certain things are pretty persistent.