Category Archives: Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn is Prime Minister, 8 May 2020

Below is a report of how Jeremy Corbyn’s grassroots campaign paid off and how the Labour Party established itself as the party of government

‘The people I have to thank most of all for this are those who have worked so tirelessly to campaign to promote a new type of politics in all our communities. This is our victory.’ – Jeremy Corbyn, outside 10 Downing Street, 8 May 2020.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has won a landslide victory at the General Election and the first thing he did was pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of activists who played such a crucial role in campaigning.

Since the Labour leader cemented his place in the party following the leadership election of 2016, the party increased its membership by one million to over 1.5 million. The party had formerly merely mouthed the idea of recruitment as this had not sat comfortably with many MPs elected during the Tony Blair era. While Blair had relied on the support of media moguls like Rupert Murdoch to get elected, Corbyn steered a different course.

In many ways it all started with the trade unions rallying behind Corbyn in 2016. Unions played a significant role in promoting Corbyn’s values with hundreds of thousands of members joining Labour and also taking an active part in local politics.

Rooted in communities

After the party was reorganised so that it was less top-down, local Labour Party branches were encouraged to recruit more people and engage them in campaigning as well as social activity. Labour became part of the community again just as it had been decades before through working men’s clubs. Regular Labour newsletters were delivered to each household, not just asking for votes but keeping local people up to date with the political issues in their community. And people were encouraged to speak about the issues that affected them – public meetings were a regular occurrence.

Labour councils were also part of a shift towards a campaigning party. Councils made sure that the message of what austerity was doing was brought to the public’s attention. The local government rally against austerity in 2017 was a breakthrough with over two million people demonstrating against austerity across the country. Labour councils also made their accounts transparent and easy to read so that all residents could see exactly how little money there was to maintain essential services.

Social media and media platforms were also a vital part of Corbyn’s success. It was now much easier for people to receive information without needing to hear it through the prism of anti-Labour sources. And people were offered a cultural alternative to X Factor and reality TV with exciting shows written and produced by Corbyn supporters from across the arts.

500 activists per seat

What this all meant was that for the past year there have been over 500 activists in each constituency engaging with their community and showing that Corbyn’s straightforward, honest politics was not just a catchphrase, but a new way of doing politics and winning elections.

A phone call from Jeremy Corbyn

On Monday the #JC4PM tour hit Swansea. The date had been planned months ago and tickets had been selling well before the attempted coup on Jeremy Corbyn. But in the week between the coup and the event, sales went through the roof – and the Brangwyn Hall has a very high ceiling!

People wanted to show support for Corbyn. That was clear from the impromptu rally of a few hundred people that assembled outside the venue just before the show. The was already a buzz about the night before it had started.

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Mark Serwotka was a fantastic compere. He not only managed to set the political events of the last two weeks in context, but he was skilled at introducing performers and encouraging audience participation. He was also funny. From the perspective of the audience, it was slick (there is a youtube clip here).

However, backstage, I was in a bit of a pickle. At the weekend I had been informed that John McDonnell couldn’t attend as he now had an important speech to make in London. The way out of all this was to skype John and put it on the projector screen. Easy? We rehearsed it a few hours before the event started and it all seemed straightforward, but at 7pm the wifi signal disappeared.

While I was trying to find new wifi codes for it, I got a phone call. I was tempted not to answer as I was so busy, but I’m pleased I did as it was Jeremy Corbyn. He asked if he could do anything for the night. I was a bit taken aback and said we could try skypeing. He said he would see if this was possible and would call me back.

Then I realised that I was already struggling to get John to skype so I could be wasting a great opportunity if skype fell flat. I texted a message to say that we could do a phone call instead. I then tried to work out how this would work while I was I was also hunting for wifi codes.

The only way possible would be for me to put my phone on speaker and hold it next to the microphone on stage.

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Jeremy phoned me back. While Grace Petrie was on stage engaging 800 people in a singalong, I explained that I would be going on stage with the phone. Mark was going to introduce him as I came on.

What happened was incredible. Jeremy was introduced. All that people saw was a phone in my hand, but the idea of the Labour Leader being on the other end generated more noise in the Brangwyn Hall than decades of amped-up Heavy Metal bands. When I actually put the phone to the microphone I realised it wasn’t in speaker mode so I switched it over and then it only took three words from Jeremy to prompt another roar. And then when he finished a few sentences there was more commotion. People started stamping their feet by this time. On a few occasions people didn’t hear what Jeremy was saying as they were making so much noise. It was incredible.

I thought the night was already made but then I had a message saying John had to be skyped within five minutes as soon he had to go and vote in Parliament.

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At this point, people were going to get drinks for the interval. I asked the theatre management to get everyone to come back as John was speaking. I then tapped in the wifi code and hooked up my laptop to the projector screen – and John was there! It worked well. People were excited that there was a live transmission and that John was there to explain what was happening in the Labour Party. At one point the picture disappeared, but John’s office called back and the first thing John said was: ‘When we get into power we will make sure we improve Broadband connections’. This got one of the best laughs of the night!

  • At short notice a special #Keep Corbyn night has been arranged for the O2 Forum Kentish Town on Tuesday (12 July). The night is compered by Mark Serwotka and features Jeremy Hardy, Francesca Martinez, Michael Rosen, Rufus Hound, Dane Baptiste, Grace Petrie, She Drew The Gun and guest speakers including Jeremy Corbyn. Tickets cost £5/£10/£10 and can be bought online here.

 

 

#JC4PM – a celebration of unity

 

I sometimes like to think I was the inspiration behind the choice of the word ‘Momentum’. I sent a message to John McDonnell in the summer suggesting that we put on a big night of comedy, music, poetry and speakers after 12 September in order to ‘maintain the momentum’ of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. I was worried that if Jeremy didn’t win (as I feared), then all the good feeling and mobilisation of thousands of people would evaporate.

The genesis of the #JC4PM tour was that feeling that we have to keep the excitement going at the grassroots regardless of the result of the Labour leadership election. We want to see more teenagers peeping into windows trying to get a good view of a political speaker and more improvised speeeches on the top of fire engines.

#JC4PM has now put on two shows (in Kentish Town, London and Bristol) and both have felt like celebrations of hope and solidarity. As well as some fantastic performers, over 2,000 people have attended and we have had speakers from a range of progressive social movements: trade unions, Stop the War, The People’s Assembly and Stand up to Racism. We’ve also seen Labour Party members working together with Momentum and the result of all this is that anyone can see that unity is strength.

There were 10 front of house stalls in Bristol. The venue were aghast at the number of tables and drapes that were colouring their foyet; and audience members were greeted with campaign material, petitions and badges galore. It was like a festival of the left.

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Back together

#JC4PM has brought back the spirit of the summer as now we have reassembled all the groups who worked so hard to get Jeremy elected and we are sharing the stage, sitting next to each other and signing each other’s mailing lists.

Those people opposed to Jeremy Corbyn are seeking to divide his supporters: criticising his allies in the party (John McDonnell, Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott) and all the groups that support him (Stop the War, Momentum, Stand up to Racism, CND). They want those elements to be at each other’s throats so that Jeremy has a weaker defence. The best antidote to this is to all get out together and celebrate our unity.

  • #JC4PM has three more dates before April (Edinburgh, Croydon and Newcastle). To buy tickets or find out more, go to http://jc4pmtour.com

The Corbyn story the media won’t cover

#JC4PM-Facebook

Have you heard about the #JC4PM tour?

Dozens of top-drawer musicians, comedians, poets and people from the political world are coming out to show support for Jeremy Corbyn. People like Billy Bragg, Charlotte Church, Brian Eno, Ken Loach, Mark Steel, Jeremy Hardy, Francesca Martinez, Grace Petrie, Arthur Smith, Sara Pascoe, Lindsey German, John Rees, Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone. It’s supported by Unite the Union and has been promoted by Stop the War, Momentum, The People’s Assembly and Stand up for Labour. It is a shining example of the strength of support behind Jeremy Corbyn.

I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. It’s something the media don’t think is ‘newsworthy’. Those are the words of some journalists writing for national papers. And I’m not talking about ‘The Sun’ or ‘The Telegraph’. The only media coverage the #JC4PM tour has received was from Andrew Whitaker in the Scotsman.

I believe there are two reasons why the media are not reporting it.

The first reason is that a story about big names supporting Jeremy Corbyn does not fit in with the narrative that he is losing support or is not credible. The range of names backing the Labour leader despite all the media attacks on him undermines the media itself.

The second reason that the tour is not being reported is that the media want it to fail. If it does not receive publicity then it is harder to sell tickets and fill out the venues. Then they could possibly write a negative story about it!

I am writing this blog to alert people to this and also to encourage people to support the first event at the O2 Kentish Town on Thursday. The tour will be moving on to Bristol, Edinburgh, Croydon and Newcastle in February and March. More dates are being organised in May.

To book tickets go to http://www.jc4pmtour.com/

What Next for Labour? Report of public meeting

JeremyCorbynThe General Election result was a great disappointment. Right up to the moment that last ballot paper was dropped in a ballot box, I thought Labour had done enough to stop the Conservatives forming another government – even a coalition one. I believed the opinion polls – as most people did – and it was heartbreaking to see David Cameron outside Number 10 on Friday 8 May.

I suppose it was inevitable that Ed Miliband would stand down as leader. Had he managed to stop the Tories forming a government he probably would have stayed but the result was a humiliation for him. This has led to the major framework for discussion about Labour’s future becoming one about which personality should take the helm: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall or Mary Creagh. I have not been impressed with the level of discussion from the candidates as it has mostly been soundbites about ‘aspiration’, ‘middle England’ and ‘moving out of our comfort zone’. Continue reading