Labour may not be performing quite as well in the polls as its supporters expected but its voters on the ground certainly don’t seem that bothered.
A poll earlier this month showed public support for Theresa May had grown despite a disastrous party conference speech, two Cabinet resignations and Brexit talks stalling. The YouGov poll for The Times found 34% of voters want May to stay as Prime Minister, up one point from a month ago. Backing for Jeremy Corbyn as PM, meanwhile, fell two points to 35% and a sizeable 35% said they were not sure who they wanted to lead the country.
Yet there were no signs of support for Corbyn waning at his first rally since just before the Labour party conference in September.
The Islington North MP yet again ushered on stage to a rendition of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” and rapturous applause from the 1,500-strong audience in West Bromwich.
“Polls don’t really concern me, to be honest,” said 18-year-old Erin Gilbey, a student at Birmingham University.
“We’ll see what happens and we’ll fight behind him.
“Just as he was leaving then, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an MP for many years be popular in the way that people want to speak to him and want to know him, almost as a person.
“Given the really negative media attention he had right at the start of his campaign, he’s done incredibly to get that sort of support and I don’t think that poll makes any difference to that whatsoever from what I’ve seen tonight.”
Her fellow student, 18-year-old Emma Gordon, added: “Polls haven’t had much of a history of being that accurate, let’s be real. There was the landslide victory for the Tories and all that, so I’m not really concerning myself with polls, to be honest.”
The young women, who told HuffPost UK they had dressed in red especially for the event, said they were optimistic about the future of the party.
Marcie Winstanley, 18, their fellow student who herself hopes to one day be a Labour MP, said: “I think the energy that was here tonight is going to be alive in all of the people who leave this room with newfound inspiration.”
The trio weren’t the only ones dressed for the occasion. There were plenty of football-style scarves with Corbyn’s name emblazoned upon them floating around, as well a plenty of other merchandise, including the now-almost iconic T-shirt featured the leader’s name in the style of the Nike slogan.
Peter Griffiths, a 69-year-old Labour councillor, also had little for time polls suggesting Corbyn was losing support.
He said: “It’s not what we’re finding on the streets. When we go door-knocking, people are very much with Jeremy.”
He too said he was optimistic about the future: “We are, we certainly are in the Midlands here about a very good result in the next round of elections.”
Tom England, 27, has been a member of the party since Corbyn became a major figure. He was thrilled with the Labour leader’s furious response to Wednesday’s budget, when he attacked the absence of social care from Philip Hammond’s financial priorities.
The 27-year-old said he admired Corbyn’s “righteous anger”, adding: “It’s really encouraging, because he speaks sense and speaks personally and with compassion. It’s unusual to hear people speak with compassion, it’s really nice.”
He told HuffPost: “It’s the first rally I’ve been to and it’s encouraging to see it’s quite diverse. You’re told that the swelling membership is young people but actually coming here, young people are still in the minority. I suppose compared to other political parties, there’s an awful lot of people here but it’s still very clear that it’s a movement across generations.”
He hit out at “establishment” figures such as Tony Blair for talking Corbyn down.
He said: “I saw Tony Blair talking about him and it kind of pissed me off because he was saying he should be further ahead and coming from somebody who lost the trust of the general public, it seems like a rather strange thing to do.
“So I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is hoped generally by people speaking out against him when they’ve got no real right to be speaking out against him. establishment figures speak out against him a lot but actually if you speak to the general public,I think he’s quite favourably viewed.
“His authenticity is looked upon favourably even if you disagree with his views.”
The biggest cheers of the nights were reserved for the issues of council housing, reversal of NHS privatisation and party successes in locations not generally thought of as Labour areas.
Corbyn told the crowd: “The Prime Minister and her Chancellor claim they’re building an economy “fit for the future”. But all the figures they published yesterday show our economy is on its knees and even the mild mannered Institute for Fiscal Studies describes the outlook on living standards as “grim”.
“Philip Hammond’s not given a penny more for our police. Nothing for West Midlands Police, who have suffered £145 million in cuts and the loss of 2,000 officers, while crime is on the up.
“Other than a tiny amount for maths teaching there is not a penny more for education. But in the Black Country £49 million is being cut from schools’ budgets. How are they supposed to cope?
“There is not a penny more for social care, for mental health or children’s services. Not a penny more for our fire service.
“And not a penny more for our public sector workers, who, like everyone else, will see their living standards continue to fall for years to come.
“Unlike the Tory Chancellor, Labour will ask the very richest in our society to pay a bit more so we can properly fund our NHS, social care, education, the police, and the other public services we all rely on.
“The next Labour government will invest in our people and in our industries and build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”