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Corbynmania sweeps Croydon

“Whatever the result of the Labour leadership process, we will stay together,” was the rallying call from Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn, addressing over 600 supporters in Croydon this week.

Report Corinna Lotz; photos Peter Arkell

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn arriving to applause, with Ted Knight

Croydon TUC president Jon Morgan, chairing the meeting, said it was the biggest labour movement event he had seen in the area for over a decade.

Trade unionists, young people, pensioners and activists from south-east London and as far away as Southampton spilled out into the garden at Croydon’s Ruskin House.

Corbyn has ignited a latent movement against austerity, nuclear weapons and Tory-lite Labour policies. Allowed into the leadership race by the Labour elite to make up the numbers and face humiliation, Corbyn instead has rallied people against the orthodoxy that there is no alternative.

In many ways, the movement around him is connected to the surge for self-determination and democracy seen in Scotland, the anti-austerity policies that brought Syriza to power in Greece and the anti-corruption Podemos in Spain that is threatening to unseat the two major parties.

Corbyn crowd at Croydon
Some of the audience at the overflow meeting

In Croydon, people responded enthusiastically to Corbyn’s denunciation of the Tory austerity programme. The response to his campaign had revealed something deeper and more profound than just the leadership issue, he said.

“The issues that we face are more serious. Like you, I was devastated by the loss of the 2010 and 2015 elections. We have seen a grotesque growth of inequality.

“Don’t leave this to the Parliamentary Labour Party,” he insisted.

Denouncing the anti-immigrant demonisation of minorities, he called for a united effort.  “We have unleashed a real aspiration for all, not just individuals, in a summer of hope.”

Corbyn condemned Labour’s commitment to cuts prior to the last general election, its acceptance of the “economics of austerity” and the notion that the financial crisis had been caused by public sector workers.

“We won’t succeed if we promote ‘austerity lite’. I wanted a serious policy debate in the Labour Party, but instead we got a leadership campaign based on one member one vote.”

Since then the debate had grown exponentially. Over the last few days, 1,700 people gathered in Birmingham, over 2,000 in Camden and 500 in a pub garden in Preston.

His campaign has launched an economic policy document to address issues like gross inequality, taxation, investment, housing, transport and education.  He called on people to debate policy documents locally, “not in private consultations in leafy hotels”.

“Who won the Iraq war?” Corbyn asked, “was it the big oil companies?” Earlier in a Newsnight interview he said Blair would have to answer for his decision to support Bush in the 2003 attack on Iraq. He opposed the renewal of the Trident nuclear missile system, saying that the £100 million saved could be used to expand useful technologies.

Corbyn question
Someone asks a question from the overflow meeting outside

Unison National Executive member and Lambeth branch secretary, Jon Rogers said he was “intensely proud” to be supporting Corbyn.

“I don’t mean to be divisive,” he said, “but the Labour MPs who abstained on the cuts should be ashamed. The world economy cracked up because capitalism is a screwed-up system and the bankers screwed it up further.

“Corbyn’s campaign offers hope and a credible political alternative to austerity and we have a right as working class people to debate this.”

Speaking on behalf of local Labour councillors Jane Avis said it was the best moment of her life. It was time at last to respond to accusations that “Labour is in bed with the unions” by saying proudly “we are the unions”.

“What a difference Corbynmania has made!” GMB Southern Region organiser Nadine Houghton told the meeting. “Finally someone is speaking up for students, the disabled and workers. It is a mass movement behind one man, but it’s essentially about the principles he stands for.”

Her union had not backed Corbyn at the national level, but the Southern Region had. Warning about new anti-union legislation, she said “state involvement in unions is totalitarianism. The right to strike is not a dirty word but a fundamental human right.”

Andrew Fisher of the Croydon North Labour Party that MPs who had abstained on the welfare cuts appalled him. Corbyn’s policies were not radical socialism but common sense.

5 August 2015

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