Camden Town Hall and the streets outside were packed with people eager to hear Jeremy Corbyn's radical message of hope as he continues his hugely popular speaking tour
No British politician has received this kind of response fordecades. Jeremy Corbyn has addressed over 10,000 people in the past few days alone – in Leicester, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool, and now London. The queue at the Camden Centre in King’s Cross wrapped its way right around the block, and hundreds couldn’t get in. Jeremy addressed a crowd of about 500 outside from the top of an FBU fire engine with a campaign banner reading “straight talking, honest politics”. More than 2,000 people crammed into the venue.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, chaired the rally, which was organised by activists from protest movements, including Stop the War Coalition and the People's Assembly. The atmosphere was electric. He only got as far as a big “hello” before being drowned out by a massive cheer.Jeremy’s standing ovation started before he even got into the hall. Over the past few weeks it’s become clear – painfully for the establishment – that the policies Jeremy has put on the national agenda – the abolition of tuition fees, renationalisation of the railways, bringing Royal Mail back into public hands, defending the NHS, not renewing Trident, a programme of council house building and capping rents, ending the scapegoating of migrants, investing millions in manufacturing and so on – resonate with millions. Last night, once again, they were received with cheers and tumultuous applause.
The right, and his detractors in the media and the Labour party, ask where the money will come from. Jeremy’s answer is simple: “let the broadest shoulders bear the biggest burden to balance the books”. The money will come, of course, from policies that ensure companies that currently dodge taxes arepaying their share, from saving money by divesting in nuclear weapons, from ending costly, illegal and unjust foreign wars,and from investing in welfare and jobs, so people have more money to put back into the economy.
It’s these ideas that have driven the popularity of the campaign. Jeremy spoke of the campaign as a movement, and although focused on getting him elected, this was a celebration of active resistance. It brought together a great diversity of support. Shadia Edwards-Dashti from Stop the War got huge applause when she talked about the movement stopping Cameron’s attempt to bomb Syria last time around. Anti-racist campaigner Martha Osamor was cheered when she spoke of this moment being a culmination of years of struggle. “This,” she said, “is our time”. Brian Eno talked about how Jeremy has given hope to young people. To yet more rapturous applause, Owen Jones spoke against sexism, homophobia and racism and how Jeremy will strengthen the fight against prejudice. One of the biggest cheers of the night went to Jeremy when he condemned the degrading treatment of migrants, across Europe and in this country.
At one point, after listing the policies Jeremy is standing for, Mark Serwotka caught the sense of sudden transformation when he said “close your eyes and imagine what it will be like”. The anticipation in the room – not only for the speakers on the platform and for Jeremy Corbyn – but for what this might mean, was palpable. There was a sense of the possibilities, and history being made.
Before voting for the Labour leadership begins, there will be a great many more rallies in support of Jeremy Corbyn that are being organised by activists around the country. But the struggle has only begun. Mark Serwotka and Owen Jones both warned about the huge pressures that will be exerted on Jeremy and his team if he wins, from the Labour right, the media and the whole of the establishment. We will need our own media to counter the smear campaigns conducted by his enemies as they gather around him.
But it’s the movements that have helped get Jeremy this far, and so it’s going to be popular mobilisations in the coming weeks and months, to support and defend his policies, his ideas and the hope he represents, that will be crucial. It was entirely appropriate that Mark Serwotka ended the meeting by calling on people to demonstrate in their tens of thousands at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester called by the People’s Assembly, 3-7th October.
Feyzi Ismail teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is active in UCU
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