With the new Labour leadership contest well underway, Corbyn is already surging ahead of his only rival – the Blairite-backed Owen Smith. The current Labour leader’s support is most clearly expressed by the huge historic numbers that have already turned out to his campaign rallies in cities across the north of England.
With the new Labour leadership contest well underway, Corbyn is already surging ahead of his only rival – the Blairite-backed Owen Smith. The current Labour leader’s support is evident not only from the official backing he has gained from the trade unions and local Labour parties, but from the huge historic numbers that have already turned out to his campaign rallies in cities across the north of England.
These, in turn, follow on from the massive nation-wide launch of Corbyn’s campaign the weekend before, which included over 1,700 at the launch rally in Salford. Owen Smith’s campaign launch, by comparison, was a pathetic affair of mainly press attendees, in which he attempted to put on a left face, putting on a rage of “radical” promises in a desperate attempt to fool Corbyn supporters into voting for him.
The main point to highlight in all cases is the massive – and increased – active participation in the movement. Last year’s leadership campaign was already notable for the incredible turnouts for Corbyn meetings across the country. The tremendous numbers seen at short notice for #KeepCorbyn events in the wake of the failed Blairite coup were more impressive still. But all of this has been put in the shade by the mind-blowing crowds seen in the past week alone.
In terms of trade union backing, Corbyn now has the official support of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), ASLEF (a railway workers’ union), BFAWU (the bakers’ and food workers’ union), and – most notably – UCATT (the construction workers’ union), which previously supported Andy Burnham in last year’s leadership contest (and backed Angela Eagle for deputy!). This is in addition to the motion of support for Corbyn that was overwhelmingly passed at the recent policy conference of Unite the Union, Britain’s largest trade union.
On the local Labour party front, Corbyn leads Smith by a ratio of 4-to-1, with the incumbent gaining the support of 62 constituency Labour parties (CLPs) to his opponents 15. This is a massive increase on the 40% of CLP nominations that Corbyn received in last year’s four-way contest, reflecting the massive influx of new members into the Party; the hundreds of thousands who have joined because of Corbyn’s leadership and programme.
Despite the best attempts of the Blairite bureaucracy to gerrymander the vote, therefore, it is clear that the balance of forces amongst the rank-and-file of the Party is still heavily weighted in Corbyn’s favour. And this is not including the over 180,000 supporters who signed up in the space of just 48 hours – the vast majority of whom will likely be for Corbyn.
So far, seventy-seven CLPs have made supporting nominations. Fifteen for Smith and sixty-two for Corbyn. pic.twitter.com/Ty1KsL8Tcr
— CLP Nominations (@CLPNominations) August 1, 2016
Most importantly though has been the tens of thousands who have already turned out in rallies across the north. In Newcastle, York, Hull, Leeds, and Liverpool – all of these cities where Corbyn was said to have less support have seen historically large attendances over the past week as part of this summer’s leadership campaign.
On Saturday, for example, over 1,000 were estimated to be present at a Corbyn rally in Newcastle, despite the absence of the Labour leader himself. In Hull, 3,000 were in attendance at what has been described as the city’s “biggest political rally in 20 years”. Similar numbers were seen in York. In Leeds, meanwhile, thousands queued around the block in order to hear Corbyn.
The queue to get into our rally in Leeds is staggering.https://t.co/n9iY3NdiX9
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) July 30, 2016
But by far the most jaw-dropping of all was the crowd of over 10,000 who came out in spite of the rain to hear Corbyn and others speak from on top of a fire engine in Liverpool. The mood, by all accounts, was explosive.
Similarly huge turnouts can now be expected elsewhere as momentum builds up behind Corbyn. It is possible now that the Labour leader could win this latest contest with an even greater majority, landing a powerful blow against the Blairite saboteurs.
It is clear that the political situation in Britain has been fundamentally transformed in the past year. The election of Corbyn and the failed Blairite coup have given rise to an unprecedented mass movement, with the direct and active involvement of a whole new layer of workers and youth who have been radicalised by events. The task now is to channel this enormous energy into a movement capable of kicking out the Blairites, kicking out the Tories, and kicking out Capitalism.
Article intro image by Paul McGowan of M13 Photography. See Facebook and Flickr for more photos.