POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Says He Represents New Centre Ground Of Politics In Final General Election 2017 Rally

'This is what people want, not what the establishment tells them they should'.

08/06/2017 08:05
Hannah Mckay / Reuters

Everyone loves the Union Chapel.  One of north London’s most popular venues, it is a symbol of the capital’s rich culture.

And if you were one of the lucky thousand or so who managed to get inside its Grade I-listed, Gothic-style walls last night for Labour’s final campaign rally, you could be forgiven for thinking everyone loves Jeremy Corbyn too.

His 90th of the campaign, while not quite in his home constituency (he was introduced by constituency neighbour and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry) saw an extended version of the stump speech Corbyn has delivered week in, week out since the snap election was called.

Most people will have caught snippets of it as the campaign has gone on.  For the many, not the few.  More investment in the NHS, in schools.  Renationalise the railways.  End inequality.

But this time Corbyn went slightly off message, to deliver a remarkable claim to a wildly applauding crowd. 

 “This is the new centre ground,” he said.

“The place where people actually are.  The things they want, not what the establishment and their media mouthpieces say they should want.”

While it remains to be seen whether this claim will be backed up at polling stations across the country, it’s certainly fair to say Corbyn has energised politics among those who enjoy his brand.

There are huge queues outside the venue, those who didn’t manage to get tickets to the event but want to chance their arm at getting in.

When we’re almost at capacity, a few dozen lucky ones are allowed to fill the leftover space.

“Oh my God,” say three teenagers wearing T shirts with superhero-style Jeremy Corbyn logos on.

“I can’t believe it.  We’ve got in.  Oh my God.”

As we wait for the man himself to arrive, there is dancing, there is cheering and there is chanting, including: “You can stick your strong and stable up your arse.”

“This is just great,” one couple in their 60s tell me.

“We have always voted Labour and we probably would never vote any other way, but it’s brilliant to see so many people engaged and interested.”

 But this ties in with what many Corbyn-critics have been saying all along - that he is preaching to the converted. 

Standing in a packed room on eve-of-poll with hundreds of like-minded people who believe in the same things as you, if you haven’t been paying close attention to the news it’s easy to see how you could be swept along in thinking there is no chance Corbyn’s Labour can’t win.

He tells the crowd: “We’re not the party of the billionaires. We’re not the party of the corporate elite. We’re the party of the people.  We are offering a message of hope.  

“Tonight we are not defending.  We don’t need to.  We are asserting our view.”

Both Corbyn and Thornberrry urge people to get out and vote - ‘the power is in your hands’.  Corbyn confidently predicts Labour wins in Watford and Harrow, the locations of his 88th and 89th rallies.

PA Wire/PA Images
Labour activists in Watford.

Tomorrow you have the power to say our country can be better than this. It can be run in the interests of the majority; not the political and corporate elites,” the Labour leader said.

“People fought and died for our right to vote. In the course of this campaign people have lost their lives in Manchester and here in London - citizens of a free and democratic country.

“We can honour the victims of these atrocities by voting. By showing democracy that will never be cowed by terror and that hope can triumph over fear.

“Labour’s campaign has already changed the face of British politics. As we prepare for government, we have already changed the debate and given people hope. Hope that it doesn’t have to be like this; that inequality can be tackled; that austerity can be ended; that you can stand up to the elites and the cynics.”

Intensely comfortable in her role as MC, Emily Thornberry makes the point Labour has performed much better than the Tories expected when the Prime Minister fired the starting pistol on the campaign.

She begins her introductory speech: “Hi Theresa.  How’s strong and stable working out for you?”

It was a view echoed in our final HuffPost UK-Edelman focus groups, which saw former UKIP voters say they would consider switching to Labour after they had seen Corbyn ‘on the telly and out meeting people’.

But the party would need to pick up large swathes of the pro-Brexit vote to see it make any difference - early indications of which could come as the first north east constituency results trickle in on Thursday evening.

As the rally ends and we file out, those who managed to get inside the venue are greeted with cheers by the thousand who have waited outside to try and catch and glimpse of their hero.

Police have to stop the traffic and it takes a good hour or so for people to start to disperse.  

I overhear one woman as we walk past Labour’s red battlebus, emblazoned with the party’s ‘For The Many, Not The Few’ campaign slogan.

“Fuck the many,” she says. “The lucky few saw the man.” 

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