by Nick Clark
The first mass rally of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be re-elected as Labour Party leader took place in Salford today, Saturday.
Between 1,700 and 1,800 people packed into Salford’s Lowry theatre after the event was announced earlier this week. It dwarfed the much smaller campaign meeting that Corbyn’s rival Owen Smith held in Manchester’s Friend’s House yesterday.
The size of the rally reflected the huge support Corbyn has among Labour members and supporters. Corbyn said mobilising that support was the key to winning Labour’s leadership election—and winning change.
He told the rally, “Politics isn’t about sending great individuals somewhere else to do great things, only for them to come back and tell you how hard it was not to do them.”
“Some respected pundits say it is only what happens in parliament that is important.
“What happens in parliament is important. But change comes because people want that change to come”.
Corbyn pointed out that Labour’s membership had grown to around 540,000 since he was first elected as leader last September.
He said, “Labour’s membership has surged—we are a social movement. We have become a mass party, a mass organisation.
“Our party is changing—politics is changing. It needed to change. You are that change. You are the ones that will change politics.”
The people at the rally reflected the reasons why so many people supported Corbyn. Derek was one of them. He said, “People see it as a fight for the soul of the Labour Party.
“But they’re confident that they were going to win the leadership election.
He added, “They’re angry with the backstabbers of course. But they see Corbyn as representing a tradition in Labour that they identify with”.
Many of the people there were Labour party members, angry that Labour’s national executive committee has suspended party branch meetings in the run up to the election.
Derek said, “One person from a nearby Labour Party said that the right in the branch were trying to convene meetings anyway without letting Corbyn supporters know.”
Many of the other speakers at the rally reflected that anger, as well as the optimisim.
You are that change. You are the ones that will change politics
Claudia Webbe, a candidate for Labour’s national executive committee said the party had, “tens of thousands of new members who have joined for change and a better society.”
She challenged the Labour MPs who have been attacking Corbyn to “get out of the gutter, stand up on our feet and take the fight to the Tories”.
And Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, slammed Labour MPs who have accused Corbyn supporters of bullying them. He said, “I cannot stand by and see every one of you portrayed as thugs, bullies or misogynists.”
Of Labour’s new members he said, “These are not bad people—they are good people. We should be proud of them.
“MPs must respect party members”.
Burgon added that Labour had been losing support before Corbyn was elected—and that it was vital for Labour to change.
He said, “Social democratic parties across Europe are in crisis. It’s becoming clear to millions of people that the economic status quo has failed them.
“It would be sheer madness to try returning to defending the previous status quo that has lost us five million votes”.
Today’s rally comes after a similar one in London earlier this week. More huge rallies will take place across Britain in the coming weeks.
Channelling the support at those rallies into the kind of movements Corbyn talked about will be crucial to ensuring he can beat the right.