With just days until voters go to the polls, Corbyn is touring the country in one last push for a Labour victory. His visit to Wales last weekend highlights the enormous enthusiasm that exists amongst workers and youth everywhere.
As we have noted previously, the most important – and yet the most under-reported – story of this election has been the mass movement around Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s bold manifesto to change society. Swathes of supporters have flooded the streets, participating in canvassing and rallies. This is no less true in Wales, which is experiencing a massive revival in support for the Labour Party.
Wales has always been a strong bulwark of support for Labour. Ever since the 1920s, it has consistently returned Labour MPs to Westminster. On top of this, Welsh voters have loyally backed the Labour Party in the Welsh National Assembly ever since its inception in 1997.
As a result, those who live in Wales still enjoy certain benefits that are long gone in other regions of the UK, such as free prescriptions and an extra allowance for college students (EMA). But with the crisis of capitalism comes attacks and austerity. The working class has been forced to pay for the crisis, whilst the rich get richer.
Tragically, instead of fighting back, the Welsh Assembly and local councils have for some time now accepted funding cuts from the Tory government in Westminster. This means cuts to jobs, benefits and public services.
Tuition fee grants are under attack by the so-called ‘Diamond Review’. According to charity Save the Children, Wales has the worst child poverty in the UK. It also has the lowest take-home wages of any region in Britain. It is clear that the issues facing workers, students, pensioners and the unemployed are far from being solved.
It is in this context that Jeremy Corbyn’s radical manifesto has found an echo here in Wales, as it has across the country. It is inspiring all layers of society – especially the youth. As a result, the Labour leader was met by huge enthusiastic crowds wherever he went during his visit this weekend, with massive rallies in Barry, Swansea and Carmarthen.
Evan Roberts, Cardiff West CLP
Earlier in the week, news got out that Corbyn would be visiting Barry to speak at the Sports and Social Club on Barry Island. Very quickly, all the places inside the 200 seat venue were reserved. But many more decided to turn up anyway and rally outside the hall.
A two-hour delay to Corbyn’s arrival did not dent the lively mood, with Jeremy being greeted with chants and loud applause.
Five weeks ago, the local Labour candidate Belinda Loveluck Edwards had launched her campaign in a hall nearby. Back then, the atmosphere was quieter. The task of closing the large gap in the polls seemed a difficult one. “I do not plan to change the world,” Belinda stated at her launch event, focusing instead on smaller local issues.
Now though there is a more optimistic, fighting mood. The ideas are more ambitious and the slogans bolder. “We need radical change now,” stated Belinda whilst opening this weekend’s Corbyn rally. Mark Drakeford – the Welsh Labour leader – was next, making clear what a Conservative victory would mean. “We have five days to save the NHS.”
Corbyn spoke last. He focussed on the terrible suffering that years of austerity has caused. Four million children are now growing up in poverty. Tens of thousands are homeless. Even the UN has remarked that a cold and uncaring ethos has replaced social security.
The Labour manifesto will be the beginning of the huge task of transforming society, Corbyn asserted. But he was also clear that big business does not want to see their taxes increase. He therefore expected even more attacks against him in the coming days.
A Labour victory would mean a major programme of public investment; the reintroduction of lost bus routes and their electrification; the public ownership of the railways; a new publicly-owned drug manufacturing company; a green industrial revolution, and much much more. For many in the room, changing the world now seemed to be exactly the task ahead.
After finishing his speech, Corbyn was soon back on the red battle bus. Socialist Appeal supporters stayed behind to join other activists for a mass canvassing session in the local area.
At the door, it seemed that people are starting to see through the media attacks. But you can also see the impact of years of accumulated distrust, due to the betrayals of establishment politicians in the past. “All politicians are the same,” said one woman. “Once in power he will break his promises; I am not voting.” Her daughter, meanwhile, confirmed that she will still vote labour.
Attacks by right-wing Labour MPs and their friends in the media have left many voters confused or disinterested. Welsh Labour leaders, meanwhile, have spent a lot of the campaign trying to distance themselves from Corbyn, rather than defending him.
For others, however, when asked which way they were planning to vote, it was enough simply to give their profession to make their intentions clear: “I work for the NHS”; “I am a firefighter”.
For these workers and many others – those who have seen a decade of attacks on wages and working conditions – the chance to elect a Corbyn government and bring about real change is a cause worth fighting for.
By Jaidan Evans
A huge line of people were queueing outside the meeting hall on Saturday 7th December in order to attend Labour’s election rally. The list of speakers included local Labour MP Geraint Davies, Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford, and – most importantly – Jeremy Corbyn.
As we waited in line, we were confronted by a counter-protest from Brexit Party supporters. But there were at most 10 people at this demo. These demoralised and reactionary layers were irrelevant. Their presence went almost unnoticed by the colossal mass of people waiting to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak.
Before Corbyn arrived, a speaker thanked everyone for their patience, since the Labour leader was running late coming from the rally in Barry. Everyone was anxious to see Corbyn.
When the Labour bus did arrive, everyone became excited to see Corbyn up on stage. But before he rose to the platform, another speaker put forward a powerful message to those women born in the 1950s who have lost their pensions due to the former Tory – Lib-Dem coalition.
Following this, Mark Drakeford came forward to give his speech. Although there were moments where he captured the crowd, it was clear that everyone was waiting in anticipation for Corbyn.
When he finally came on stage, Corbyn was greeted with thunderous applause. He began by discussing the Labour manifesto, talking about the party’s anti-austerity policies, pledging funding for public services, and attacking the ”billionaire class”. Alongside these, he mentioned the plan for a Green New Deal, including the construction of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. This was warmly welcomed by the audience.
Corbyn also brought up the fact that another Tory government would keep underfunding Wales, emphasising that Johnson and his party do not care for the environment or sustainability.
The message was clear: a Labour government will improve the lives and future of ordinary people in Wales!
By Maciej Krzymieniecki, Swansea West CLP
Carmarthen is a small working-class town, at the centre of the swing seat of Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire. A political rally is certainly not something that happens everyday here. On top of this, the venue was quite out of the way, in a massive farm hall.
For all these reasons, nobody was expecting the kind of turnout that you see in bigger cities. But we were all proven very wrong.
A red flag was fluttering high above the field. Hundreds of people were queueing and waiting for the gate to open. There was a thirst for ideas and activity. We sold out of all the copies of Socialist Appeal that we had on us in just a minute or two. Local activists were signing people up for canvassing. And plenty of young people came on their own initiative from all over the area to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak. The atmosphere was electric. We were told that Corbyn was taking time to speak individually to ordinary people in South Wales. This is why he was late for the rally in Carmarthen. But for the hundreds that turned up, it was no bother to wait in the cold hall. A musician spontaneously got on stage to play heartwarming songs on her guitar. This was met with strong support from the audience, who were patiently waiting for the Labour leader.
Marc Tierney, the local Labour candidate, was one of the speakers on the stage. Tierney talked about the need to “challenge the system, where the rich get richer and we are left worse off”. He spoke passionately about the need for Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire to kick out the self-serving Tory MP Simon Hart, who is hanging onto his seat by a thread.
Finally, Jeremy Corbyn entered and took to the stage. He was greeted with a standing applause and chants. And his radical speech was met with tremendous enthusiasm.
“The levels of poverty and inequality are getting worse and worse and worse, the longer this Tory government stays in office,” Corbyn asserted. “Ten years of austerity has given this country 150 billionaires, and four million children living in poverty. Do you think a Labour government would tolerate that? No way! No way!”
There is a clear thirst for change in every corner of the country. This cannot be underestimated. No wonder Jeremy Corbyn’s programme is inspiring millions around the country. After years of neglect, misery and austerity, it provides a ray of hope for the working class. This is what the ruling class is terrified of – of the masses becoming mobilised and confident.
Workers and youth everywhere are beginning to stand up and fight back against the whole system. The capitalists are mortally afraid that their profits, privileges and power are under threat. These Labour rallies show that they are right to be afraid. No matter what the result this week, this mass movement is not going away anytime soon.