Thursday, 18 August 2016

Corbyn and the stump speech in the modern era

Jeremy Corbyn has adopted a style of  speaking I hadn't heard since I worked for Claude Ryan in Quebec. Back then during a by election campaign in a vast rural constituency, Mr. Ryan  then  leader of the provincial Liberal Party would open his stump speech with the following bit... "This is the 23rd time I have  made this speech".  The number  would increase  each time of  course, but the implication was clear, he was required to make  his message personally to each crowd  as he could not depend on the local media and radio in rural Quebec to publish his every utterance in time to reach the population of Argenteuil county.

2000 listen in Sunderland

There were of course extenuating circumstances. The area the size of  half of England was considered sparsely populated and not worthy of it's own daily media outlet and the radio was all about sound bites. So why does Corbyn, in a country with a modern rolling news station on telly and many national papers that should be interested in at least some of what he has to say, opening his rallies with the words... "This is the 25th rally I have spoken at  since..." followed by the usual  litany we  can  recite by heart. Anti austerity, defence of workers right to collective bargaining, right to organise, nationalisation of the rail and  bringing  buses under  council control, saving the NHS, housing, mental health; mixed with the  local policy issues that crop up in various locations. Surely clear signs that some of us get it but obviously not most people using the traditional media, apparently. 

I can hear you shouting  all sorts of un comradely things about Auntie Beeb and the Murdoch press, but I won't repeat them here as I'm taking the high road. I won't for example accuse BBC news of blatant propaganda and fudging of  numbers and images, that would never be on. Furthermore it would be unwise of me to intimate the intentions of credible news organs like daily politics and the mainstream dailies in their choice of sources  and  front page stories, also likely to get me in trouble. Instead I will simply say the truth.

The selfie

The news media in general and the BBC especially have ignored to their level best on the national supper  hour and  rolling news, the tour. Corbyn and  his team  could be selling out every o2 arena in the land  and  doing the best impression of  Glastonbury complete with mosh pits and muddy fields and it would still not be news. Who cares what  thousands of  supporters in each town think? During the private volunteers meeting in Gateshead council chamber, Corbyn had  at that time done  20 rallies  and  estimated that to the end of the leadership run, he'd have spoken at another forty such rallies in public squares and parks, as venues these days seem to be too expensive ( football stadia and concert arenas) or just  plain too small. So let's do the maths here.  20+40=60.  Yes comrades, that's at least 60 x minimum average of 2000 people per rally plus the extra 8,000 from Liverpool. In other words, 200,000 supporters minimum, will have heard him speak. That's more than the entire membership of the Tory party. Still less than a quarter of the membership of the Labour party a few weeks  ago, when it stood at least 500,000.

1500 Geordies march in support of the leader earlier last month.

This  is the sort of stubborn resistance we are faced with. The sort of clear unvarnished agenda that  takes  months  not weeks or  days to plan against the democratically elected leader of the Labour party.

I was told by a friend of  mine who'd spoken to Jeremy not too long  ago, it  could  have  been at the Miner's Gala even, that it was the rallies  last  year that put the fire in Corbyn's belly. To be precise, We had  been  working hard to set up a meeting in  Newcastle last year, Middlesbrough had been hastily added to the tour and the Town Hall at  mid day was the venue in a place known to be hostile to Corbyn in 2015. When Jeremy was greeted  by a packed hall on short notice in  the middle of Blairite country, he knew he could win. When he showed up inside the Tyneside Opera house after addressing a crowd of  close to 1300 people outside, he was greeted by a heaving audience full to the rafters who'd patiently waited for him, waited  for his message, for his signal that our Labour Party would never again be the same; he was blown away.

Speaking to the packed house  at the Tyne Opera House 2015
Newcastle 2015 addressing the first  big crowd after that London meeting

Today as  he speaks, apparently at  no fewer than two  maybe three rallies, we the true progressive wing of Labour are the wind  beneath his wings. Corbyn is so happy now he'd  rather dance than worry about the big bad traditional press. Some have likened us to :

Core Labour workers who will be on the doorstep and create policy.

Trots - Nazis - Moonies - a fan club - rabble -Thugs -Bullies

We are none of those things, we are people who have a clear vision and programme that will be carried out by one man and his team of present and future MPs, councillors and party officers. We are Momentum, We are the fresh blood that this party and  country needed for decades. I was not aware until a few few days ago,  mostly due I will admit to the torrent of negative stories, that the Labour party of the UK is the biggest socialist party in Europe and  growing bigger every week. If that is failure we are spectacularly going down the pan. It's  been repeated elsewhere, but as John McDonnell said  during  his visit to Newcastle, it's not Corbyn the establishment fears, it's us, the 99% who are refusing to fall back into quiet submission. The agenda is ours to write and soon the the narrative even in the mainstream will be required to give under the sheer weight of evidence out there.

Ian Mearns " This MPs not terrified, cos Corbyn's on fire!"

What can we do to make this come to pass faster? Be the media. Spread the links in social media, pressure the local broadcasters and press to recognise the mass movement Jeremy Corbyn merely is the head of.  Join your local Labour Party and Momentum groups. Participate in any way you can  no matter how limited. Come the general election we'll need every foot soldier, policy wonk, fundraiser, phone banker, door knocker, organiser and CANDIDATE we  can lay hands on. This is a movement that will be written about for decades and studied for much longer. I would love if that movement was to culminate in the election of  the first of a string of Governments Bevan would be  proud to vote for.

 The fact that this movement is so strong and policy based, is testament that we are  not Jeremy so much as He is US. The social movement that he represents is the acorn planted by Occupy in 2011 when people decided the status quo no longer good enough. The Corbyn wave is Occupy all grown up and now entering active practical politics through the route of Peoples Assembly, Momentum, trade unions and the Greens. The energy and  push  for change from within and  without the Labour Party are there and not going away. I'm fairly sure Corbyn will win resoundingly and push on...

Corbyn busts a move in Sunderland
Listening in Gateshead

However, before we can talk future elections we need to insure that our leader remains leader despite the dirtiest campaign I have had the displeasure of witnessing and  enduring  in my political life. Go to phone banks to get the vote out, go to rallies to support the leader, be active in local campaign NOW, become the beating heart of your bit of the Labour Party. If enough of us do this to the end  and beyond, we will like the ants in the song... knock over the rubber tree plants.  Sounds revolutionary  doesn't it? That's because it is  brothers and  sisters, it is the very revolution some of us have waited all our  lives for and  others are lucky to be there at the right place and time. WE will suffer every sling and arrow of outrageous fortune, including the most recent Victoria Derbyshire omnishambles of a failed stitch up,  to get to the end of this and there waving in the breeze, a bit tattered, a bit torn  but  intact, will be our flag and the man who holds that banner high in victory. 

I'll stop now  before we have to start singing about our martyred dead ... :-)