Friday 11 August 2017

Rallies Work

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Rallies in politics matter, and you needn't take my word for it any more as Alia Middleton at the LSE has crunched the numbers. She found that where Theresa May set down during the election campaign, her visits had little appreciable effect on the outcome in those seats. When Jeremy Corbyn rolled into town for one of his rallies, the party vote share change went up almost double versus constituencies he didn't visit. Amaze.

If you cast your mind back to any point before this year's general election campaign, some wise old wise old could be found lecturing the world about how rallies do not win elections. Indeed, some might have said they're a complete waste of time. Why bother listening to someone tell you things you already know when you could be posting leaflets and knocking on doors? And, of course, in Jez's case it was just another case of him being in his comfort zone talking to folks who agree with him. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Rallies are important for several reasons. They bring large numbers of people together, just like demonstrations. When big numbers of like mind turn out for something, it not only builds up a collective feeling of solidarity, it enables people to meet, talk, get involved. Why do you think Momentum, Labour and sundry Trot groups have stalls at these sorts of events? Because they know new people will be drawn there out of curiosity and interest, a fair chunk of whom would be looking to get involved further. Second, rallies - especially Jez rallies - are a spectacle. They're something we haven't seen with any degree of regularity since the mid-1980s, particularly outside London, and for large numbers of younger people it is entirely novel. If you happen to just be passing by and a thousand or so people are gathered, chances are you're going to hang around and see what the fuss is about. And think of what the spads and wonks call the optics. During the election people saw Theresa May shuttled from one staged event to another, whereas Jez was meeting and addressing real people. When the media barrage is this man is weak/dangerous/unpopular and yet the same is showing him in front of crowds, that message ain't going to wash.

Lastly, don't underestimate the impact this has on the Labour Party's enemies. Rallies are supposed to show your opposition the kind of strength you can muster. When Jeremy Corbyn can pop up in any part of the country and draw a crowd, that's going to make the Tories nervous. They are finally waking up to we saw in Derby North. A rally also ensured coverage in the local rags (every local newspaper reader is very likely to be a voter), which would have percolated out into the nearby marginals. Their geographic spread is therefore unlikely to have made much of a difference. Meanwhile, May's strategy didn't help her - the more the public saw, the more stilted, awkward, robotic she and "her team" appeared.

This week Jez embarked on his summer tour of marginal constituencies. There will still be grumblers and naysayers grumbling and naysaying, but now the electoral impact of this strategy cannot be denied.


Shai Masot said...

Another good thing about the rallies is that they underscore, for many voters, just how Westminster-centric, remote, and downright lazy the Blairite dinosaurs are. There's also the important inward-facing dimension to Jezza's approach as they do raise his standing within the wider party grassroots.

Unknown said...

Was at the rally at Heartlands Cornwall on Thursday. Certainly gives you a boost to carry the message.

Sue said...

We saw him in Tolpuddle the crowd was huge and it had a massive effect on the fence sitters who now cpunt themselves as Labour supporters

Anonymous said...

We saw him in Norwich some time ago. It was just great to hear someone so passionate and NOT using cue cards or prepared jargon filled speeches........It made me into a real Corbyn fan!!

Dialectician1 said...

Corbyn at the Durham Miners' Gala this year was massive (official estimates 200,000 plus). The only trouble was the PA system couldn't cope and Corbyn's mellifluous tones drifted in the wind across the old racecourse like a badly-tuned transistor radio.