This morning, Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s general election campaign, outlining the radical policies that a Labour government will fight for.
The mood in the Battersea Arts Centre was electric, with repeated standing ovations and thunderous applause as Corbyn pledged to take on the corrupt elite, the rotten establishment, and the rigged system.
“Labour will be on the side of the nurse, the teacher, the pensioner and the student,” Corbyn asserted, as he promised to confront “dodgy landlords, bad bosses, and big polluters”.
Corbyn even pointed the finger directly at the most disgusting examples seen in modern-day Tory Britain, including Mike Ashley, "the billionaire who won’t pay his staff properly" and whose staff are so exploited that one women "was reportedly forced to give birth in a warehouse toilet because she was terrified of missing her shift". Or Jim Ratcliff, "Britain’s richest man who makes his money by polluting the environment". Or Rupert Murdoch, "whose empire pumps out propaganda to support a rigged system".
“Which side are you on?” the Labour leader rhetorically asked. “Yours!” the crowd shouted back in response.
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It is clear that all the parliamentary games of recent weeks are now behind us. All eyes are focussed on the fight ahead - the fight of our lives to kick out the Tories.
Corbyn is back in his element, on the campaign trail talking about bold class-based demands. And who can forget how dramatically Labour turned things around in 2017, on the basis of a similarly left-wing manifesto. We can do the same again - but even bigger and better!
A couple of journalists in the audience (including the secret Tory and prominent BBC political commentator, Laura Kuenssberg) explictly referenced the last snap election, asking Corbyn why he was more confident of winning this time round. His answer: people power.
This time Labour activists are ready. Thousands are already mobilising in rallies and on the streets, wasting not one minute to start the campaign to boot out Boris. Money for the party's war chest is flooding in from individual donors. And almost 120,000 under-34 year-olds have registered to vote in the last 24 hours.
"Boris Johnson thought he was being smart holding this election in a dark and cold December," Corbyn told the audience this morning. "He thinks you won’t go out to vote. He thinks you won’t go out to campaign."
"Well I say this: Labour will be out there in every city, town and village with the biggest and most confident campaign that our country has ever seen bringing a message of hope and change to every community."
We have six weeks to do this. We can do this. Let battle commence!
All out for a Corbyn victory! Fight for a socialist Labour government! Bring it on!
Hundreds turn out in Chingford to unseat Iain Duncan Smith
By Ben Gliniecki, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP
Over 200 people gathered in Chingford and Woodford Green in north east London last night to rally for a Labour government. The event was called at just 24 hours notice, but hundreds of people turned out to show support for Labour in this marginal seat, currently held by top Tory Iain Duncan Smith by just over 2,000 votes. Such was the turnout that people were standing on tables and spilling out of the hall.
The rally was brimming with confident anticipation. Gary, Chair of the local Labour party, summed up the mood: “I feel absolutely pumped for this election,” he said, “I haven’t been this excited in 45 years.”
The Labour candidate taking on Duncan Smith in Chingford and Woodford Green is Faiza Shaheen. She addressed the rally on the burning need for a Labour government, highlighting all the deaths caused by austerity, the families relying on food parcels, and the huge cuts faced by the NHS and education. “The stakes have never been higher,” she said.
Columnist Owen Jones also addressed the rally. His opening call to kick out Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith was met with raucous cheering. “We need to build a movement,” Jones insisted, “we need people power”. He outlined what this movement needed to achieve, including every worker being paid a living wage, the nationalisation and democratic running of utilities and services, mass council house building, a Green New Deal, etc.
In this fight “we stand on the shoulders of giants”, explained Jones as he cited the Peterloo massacre, the Chartists, and the early martyrs of the trade union movement. “It’s up to us to finish the job”. Jones’ concluding remarks that we need to build a socialist society, and that “we have a world to win”, were met with stormy applause.
Finally, Laura Pidcock, Labour frontbencher, addressed the excited rally. The parliamentary games are over, declared Pidcock, now it’s a battle of ideas against the Tories who want to keep those at the top rich and prioritise profit over people.
Brexit is important, she said, but there are 14 million people in poverty in Britain, including 4 million children. That’s what this election is about.
Pidcock called for “radical solutions to our problems”, including banning zero-hours contracts, a return of double time and time-and-a-half when working anti-social hours. She insisted, to enthusiastic support, that “we need to restore the power of organised labour” through a rapid rise in trade union membership that could turn the union movement into “an unstoppable and unbreakable force”.
She finished by promising that a Labour government would implement “the most radical programme of change you have ever seen”.
On display at this rally was the kind of fighting talk, about a mass movement for socialist policies, that we need in this election. Labour gained 3.5 million votes in the 2017 general election compared to 2015. That’s the difference between a radical and a moderate campaign. This time we need an even more radical programme to take on Johnson’s right-wing populism. Bold socialist policies are the best way to build a movement and put Corbyn in Number 10.
Looking forward, a Labour government will face attacks from all sides. Big business, the media, and all the forces of the establishment are ranged against us. The movement for socialist policies we build now to put that government into power will be Corbyn’s best defence against these attacks, and the best guarantee we have to secure the housing, health, education, employment and other changes we want to see.
Energetic start to Labour campaign in Harrow East
By Martin Swayne, St Albans CLP
Yesterday saw the start of Labour’s radical election campaign. Jeremy Corbyn came down to Edgware to endorse Pamela Fitzpatrick's campaign in marginal Harrow East, where the Tory majority is just 1,757 votes. The Flash Music Theatre was packed with hundreds of supporters eager to hear from a variety of speakers.
The rally had been organised at less than 24 hour notice. But apart from a bit of a wait at the start, this was hardly noticeable. Fitzpatrick was an excellent host, introducing a good mix of speakers: from teachers, healthcare and refugee workers, to militant trade unionists, to eventually Jeremy Corbyn himself!
First was Anjum, a local secondary school teacher. She eloquently voiced the challenges teachers face.
“Everywhere I look in the classroom, I see potential.” But vicious cuts in the last 10 years, she said, have made it impossible to fulfil that potential. Basic things like glue, pens or even toilet rolls can no longer be afforded. This has huge ramifications for parents.
Anjum made the case that education is a right, not a privilege. And yet, she concluded by saying, a lot of her students decide against going to university as they don’t want to plunge into £30k of debt.
The second speaker was Alexandra, a health campaigner. Once a self-confessed former Tory voter, she has since become an enthusiastic Labour supporter. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 has had a devastating effect on the NHS, Alexandra said. One third is now effectively privatised.
She singled out UnitedHealth America, who are now licking their lips at the prospect of possibly getting access to this ‘market’ after Brexit. “We have to vote Labour, or we will lose the NHS for ever.”
Councillor Fitzpatrick then spoke briefly about Corbyn’s performance in Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, where he was scandalously mocked by out-of-touch Tory MPs for wearing a green tie in support of the Grenfell firefighters. This set the scene for introducing Amid, the chair of the Stanmore Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Amid said he had first heard of Jeremy Corbyn back in 2002, when he was one of the only MPs supporting a large firefighters’ strike over pay.
In the last few years, his respect for Jeremy has only grown stronger as a result of the dignified way in which the Labour leader has spoken in Parliament about the Grenfell tragedy. This is in complete contrast to the shameful way in which the firefighters are now being stitched up.
This word - shameful - was heard throughout the evening, an indication of the mood at present.
After another passionate talk by two representatives from NOMAD, a charity supporting refugees, Fitzpatrick recalled how she has always been a proud trade unionist, ever since she became politically active. She stated that collective action has always been part of her political education. Today, however, more and more work is casualised and non-unionised.
A prominent dispute at the moment is the one at ASDA, where workers are threatened with the sack, despite the company making £800 million in profit per year.
In an impromptu roundtable discussion with several GMB trade union representatives, a whole host of examples were given that illustrated the brutality with which ASDA workers are forced onto new contracts. These effectively strip staff of any job security or basic workers’ rights.
The regional GMB officer called this non-stop bullying “disgusting”, assuring the Walmart-owned company they would fight them all the way.
Finally, it was Corbyn’s turn to get on the stage. He was met with thunderous applause. Finally freed from the parliamentary wrangling over Brexit in Westminster, he had a clear spring in his step.
Corbyn paid tribute to the Grenfell firefighters, “who risked everything”. He condemned the fact that there has still been no justice for Grenfell survivors.
After speaking against austerity and giving his support to the GMB workers, he quickly moved onto the election campaign.
“Whether you voted Leave or Remain, you live in a country that is sharply divided – divided by austerity,” Corbyn correctly stated. He poured scorn on Boris Johnson’s assertion that we can trust him with the NHS. And he rightly emphasised how the NHS is a service, not a market.
Corbyn finished his speech by railing against the mainstream media, before putting forward a list of positive demands. These included: a real living wage of £10 an hour; full trade union rights and the reinstatement of sectoral bargaining; the setting up of a national investment bank; and last but not least, drastic measures to tackle the climate emergency.
Echoing other speakers on the night, Corbyn asked: is this really an extreme programme?
He appealed to all people attending to do everything in Harrow to win this marginal constituency. Judging from the fighting mood on the night, this should be no problem if all activists get out onto the street and - in Corbyn’s words - “go for it”.