Despite having been a Labour party member for as long as I can remember, and having supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership from the start, scheduling and life clashes have meant that I had never actually seen him speak live- until today that is!
The sun was shining, it was the middle of a weekday and we had just 48 hours notice, but a huge crowd managed to make it down to St Helen’s Square to see our wonderful local MP Rachel Maskell take to the stage with Jezzer himself.
Excited was not the word. When Jeremy comes to town there is a rockstar atmosphere which I have to admit to being cautious of when I heard tale of it in the past. I am very wary of creating some kind of leadership cult and seeing his image branded on everything from T-shirts to tote bags made me fearful that Corbynmania might not be all it was cracked up to be. However, having seen the barrage of exciting, and truly progressive policy announcements coming out of Labour HQ since the start of the year I have been increasingly reassured that with Mr. Corbyn there is no risk of style over substance.
Seeing him speak in person today, at a public, open air event for real people, free for anyone to attend, (as opposed to in a dark room of selected pre-approved sycophants as appears to be Mrs May’s modus operandi) I can honestly say that I know what all the fuss is about. Jeremy spoke with passion and integrity about the need to properly fund education from preschool to adult learning, describing his plans for an arts pupil premium, free school meals for all and a return of the EMA to create a system which allows people to flourish. He explained how Labour would create a highstreet national investment bank to invest in transport and communication infrastructure and clean energy programmes and commented on the need for better mental health funding- an issue closer to my heart than ever at the moment. For the first time in my life I am able to really get behind a leader whose vision I share and whose views so closely match my own.
But I don’t really want to talk too much about what he said, there’s plenty of information out there on policy pledges, (not that the mainstream media would want you to know) and with the manifesto due next week there will be time for digesting and debating the details more thoroughly in the weeks to come. Today I want to talk about a man and a movement with collectivism at its heart.
In the baking afternoon sun, someone was handing out bottles of water. Jeremy opened his speech by thanking a comrade who had given him a drink to ease his dry throat and acknowledge the power of community present in this small action. When Rachel took to the stage, the PA system struggled to cope with such a large crowd and we were finding it difficult to hear her. Jeremy was straight in there hoisting the speaker to his shoulder ensuring, quite literally, that when a voice couldn’t be heard, he was there to make sure it was. When, after standing in the sun for too long I began to feel a little light headed and made my way to the back of the crowd to sit down, comrades I’d never met before stopped to check I was alright.
For all the genuinely excellent policy talk and soapbox standing, it is actually today’s microactions which have inspired me the most. These seemingly insignificant acts of kindness and concern are what collectivism is all about. It heartens me to know that, perhaps for the first time in a while, our movement is now built on strong and meaningful foundations, deeply rooted in love and compassion. From here we can most certainly continue building a movement that will bring progressive and meaningful change FOR THE MANY AND NOT JUST THE FEW.