An article I wrote for ‘I Am Birmingham’ after a Labour rally in Birmingham published on 7/6/17 :
“They underestimated us and the campaign we would mount!” rallied Corbyn during the end of his intense, heartfelt speech to unite the masses in voting for Labour.
Few would disagree with the statement, considering the dramatic rise of Corbyn in the polls during the election campaign. Thousands of citizens came out in their droves to hear Corbyn at the largest political rally in recent memory in Birmingham.
The policies and vision proposed by Jeremy Corbyn have awoken the dispirited multitudes who were in a political slumber. Political apathy was becoming a norm amongst disenfranchised adults, particularly due to Labour’s turn to the right in recent decades and the lack of a perceived distinct difference between the two major parties.
In the past, would Labour voters have come out in such a fervent manner to support Ed Miliband or Tony Blair? Perhaps not. The almost ‘Glastonbury-esque’ feel to the rally could be sensed by those who were there. As the sun shone on East Side City park and the rain drizzled – a rainbow appeared as Corbyn spoke.
His vision to halt the crippling decline and austerity-hit public services has turned the heads of some Tory voters and leftists. Furthermore, it has created a real alternative to the neo-liberal policies of Blair/Brown and successive Tory governments.
The re-introduction of free education and rail nationalisation can be viewed as lunacy to some within contemporary Britain. However, major countries within Europe such as Germany and France already operate free university education or minimal degree-fees, and nationalised railways which provide lower costs to its users. The reversal of cuts and creeping privatisation within public services is alarming and to many is the major reason to back Corbyn after seven years of austerity-led politics.
The rally began with a DJ pumping out cult party-classics and anti-establishment acts such as Rage Against the Machine. Steve Coogan enthusiastically appeared to compere the rally, urging the youth to vote on Thursday and delivering his satirical comical quips about the government. Coogan proceeded to quote the last verse from Percry Byyshe Shelley’s, the ‘Masque of Anarchy’, which calls for the masses to rise from their slumber to achieve greater freedom. The verse suitably echoes Corbyn’s manifesto motto and the crowd chanted along with Coogan in the final sentence – “Ye are the many and they are the few”.
The multi-award winning Clean Bandit performed their hit songs, albeit with a poignant message given by Grace Chatto. Before performing their hit “Rockabye”, Chatto emotionally described how the “systematic dismantling of the welfare state… has left women with no choice, left and forgotten and uncared for… and that is one reason we’re standing by Labour we agree with the basic principle that every child deserves a shot of a good life, not just those from rich families.”
The introduction of Saffiyah Khan, who recently gained mass admiration for being photographed smiling in the face of a fuming EDL member during a heated exchange a few months ago, was a fitting inclusion to the rally.
That infamous photo embodied the message of hope and compassion against the politics of division and hate, it mirrors the vision that Corbyn is offering in the face of multiple attacks from the right-wing media and ad hominem attacks. Saffiyah took the opportunity to focus on the worries surrounding the younger generation, “the Tories have held young people back…under the Tories I face £25,000 of student debt.”
She successively highlighted the concerning attacks on the older generation who were “having money taken out their hands by the Conservative Party”. Khan introduced Corbyn, for whom the rally would be streamed across many of the other locations across the country, in what was a first for the Labour party.He began his speech, describing the clear choice facing voters in this election, asking if Great Britain could take five more years of a Tory austerity government.
“How many more children will not get the chances in life they deserve? How many will be poorer after five more years of a Tory government? How much longer will waiting list be in our A and E departments and our hospitals? How much more overcrowded will our primary school classes be after five more years of Tory government?”
Something was different this time with the way he spoke. The passion and belief with which he spoke was unconcealed. The criticisms of Corbyn’s persona for being drab and uncharismatic, now seemed unfounded after this rallying cry in the last days of the campaign. He ended the speech with a rising crescendo.
“Ask people what type of country, world and society do they want to live in? Do they want us to go down the road of a greater gap between the richest and the poorest? Or do they want to do something differently? Let’s work together across the country! You know what, we are going to change things!”
The ardent manner of his speech shows a leader who knows he has surpassed expectations. As a party, they were written off when the election was announced on 18th April. However, the snap election, called to enhance the power of Theresa May has backfired for the Tories in many aspects. Instead of a mass increase in the number of seats in the election, she now faces an emboldened Left uprising.
No matter what the outcome of the election is on June 8th, the rise of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn has certainly defied the odds.