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The Comedy of Errors

Jeremy Corbyn in Nottingham

21 August 15 words: Bridie Squires

If you missed out on the Jeremy Corbyn rally yesterday, fear not. We’ve got extensive coverage of the event

Speaking to various publications and news outlets, Jeremy firstly answered a few questions out in the open air, outside Nottingham Playhouse…

There’s been quite a turnout…
The attendance at the rallies and meetings is quite extraordinary. We had 2,000 in the opera house in Newcastle; 1,000 on a wet afternoon in Middlesbrough; and last weekend in four rallies in Scotland, we had probably 3,000 people at all of them. People come together because it’s optimistic, it’s united, it’s interesting, and because it’s looking forward. This is not a campaign against, it’s a campaign in favour… of a society that cares for all, that closes the inequality gap, that shares things, and that doesn’t go around blaming people.

There have been some questions about your ability to unite the party...
Well, we’re getting very large numbers of party members and registered party supporters and union party supporters at our rallies – they seem pretty united to me, so I think there is a bit of a unity message there.

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Photo: Shaun Gordon

What do you think was done wrong in Nottingham last time and what would you do differently? (Nottingham Post)
What happened in the last election was obviously disastrous in the sense that we were given a Tory government at the end of it. The poorest and the most vulnerable in this society are the ones who will pay for this Tory government. What I think was wrong with the Labour campaign is not the details of the manifesto – that was actually very good – but the fundamental economic message was that we would still continue down the road of austerity, we were still going to be making cuts in central government and therefore, by implication, local government expenditure.

To excite people around the idea of voting for an alternative which is still cutting by different form, I think was a problem. We are suggesting a much bolder economic strategy which involves investment, which involves a national investment bank which helps to improve our infrastructure, our manufacturing industry and jobs, and defending the health service from the internal market, and the ravages of privatisation that’s going on. This is getting amazing levels of support and traction all over the country hence the numbers of people who are attending our rallies.

Will you make sure it happens in the East Midlands which is so often left out? (Nottingham Post)
Good point, because the levels of government expenditure in the East Midlands taken per head of the population are among the lowest in the whole country. The need for investment, particularly infrastructure, is very important. The government’s just paused the Midland Mainline electrification. Electrification of the railways is absolutely essential, it’s not only Mainline electrification, it’s also east/west links, it’s also providing sufficient freight paths and, where necessary, building special freight lines or bypass lines, because that way you can run consistently higher speed trains on all the lines. But if you have a mixture of freight and passenger trains, they’ve obviously got to run at the availability of train space, which means availability of the lowest speed train. I’m a bit of a train buff. How much longer do you want on railways? [Laughs]

The question of infrastructure and investment is very important. We have put forward a number of economic proposals which Richard [Murphy] helped us draft but they’re all documents that we want everyone to consult on. So, after this election, whatever the outcome of it, making no predictions, we’re going to be holding all these open debates and discussions. There are so many people out there that are so smart, so intelligent, so well-informed, and so cut off from political decision making by the idea that all knowing, all seeing, all brilliant party leaders can decide policy and hand it down. We’re not doing that.

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Photo: Shaun Gordon

You’ve spoken about investment and also set yourself a mandate for renationalisation, how is that going to be paid for? (LeftLion)
The issue of public ownership of the railways is important. When the railways were privatised under John Major’s government, there was a level of subsidy for the old British Rail. The subsidy’s gone up under privatisation. Eventually, Rail Track was turned into Network Rail and is a publicly-owned company. I have no problem with public investment in the rail infrastructure, indeed I support it and I think it’s very beneficial. But we then hand over the running the train operating companies and do an amazing combination of providing them with a protected service, a subsidy to run the service, and allow them to make very large profits out of it at the same time.

It’s an absolute genius of a system for doing everything except lowering the cost to the passenger and the travelling public. And so, my view is, as each train operating company franchise ends, we don’t put it out again, we simply use the mechanism that was used for East Coast Mainline of taking it into public ownership and a publicly run service. So it’s not cost free, but – because there’s still going to be big investment in the railways, even bigger if I have my way – there’s not going to be compensation paid to the train operating companies.

So would that be money that’s already being used? You wouldn’t extend government spending? (LeftLion)
We would extend spending in the sense of investment in the infrastructure so the electrification plans for Midland Mainline, the Leeds and Manchester route, is very important, as well as a number of other routes.

What would you say to someone who was completely disillusioned with the political system and outright refuses to vote? (LeftLion)
I hope they’ll get involved, I hope they’ll put forward ideas, I hope they’ll take part with others. It’s only by collective action that we achieve anything, that’s why many people from the nineteenth century onwards campaigned for the right to vote and achieved it. That right to vote did bring us the Factories Act, Education, and eventually the National Health Service.

It’s imperfect, I know. And very difficult. I don’t want a corrupt political system, I want an open political system, I want bottom-up decision making and policy making, not top-down dictates. It’s not easy, not simple, very complicated, but if we are to collectively deal with issues of poverty and unemployment, collectively deal with the climate change crisis, the environmental crisis, the housing crisis, there has to be a political system that works to achieve that, and that’s what we’re about.

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Photo: Shaun Gordon

Nottingham Albert Hall

After a speech outside for the large overspill of people that didn’t manage to get in the absolutely rammed, 900-capacity Nottingham Albert Hall, we had a short break before the rally commenced. Once ushered inside, we were introduced to our chair for the evening – Cheryl Butler, Leader if Ashfield District Council.

Then, an introductory speech from Annmarie Kilcline of East Midlands Unite began. The swelling audience were addressed as comrades with talks of the battle against disillusionment and disengagement, as well as job loss, through rallying and creating a wave effect throughout the community. Annmarie insisted that we stand beside Jeremy Corbyn in the fight as the Thatcher reign still has an effect today. “Austerity is a problem, not a solution,” she said, while stressing the importance of ending zero hour contracts and tax loopholes.

Next to take the microphone were Umaar Kazmi and Nadia Whittome, both young Labour members who had just finished their A Levels and showed the tenacity and eloquence to inspire hope in future generations. They were enthusiastic about the campaign and drew on their own experiences to highlight the importance of education in our society, not just for young people, but for everyone. Manuel Cortes, the General Secretary for the TSSA Union, then gave a highly charged speech about the renationalisation of the railways. His speech electrified the atmosphere not just on the line of the trains, but the general principles of nationalising British services – something which seemed to resonate with the whole room.

Tax Research UK and Economics Advisor to Jeremy’s campaign, Richard Murphy, then explained the economics that have been dubbed “Corbynomics” in the mainstream news channels. He said that the underlying principles of the new plan included taking control for the people, and putting the needs of people first, not those of bankers’. He said the plan was about housing, education and the NHS taking priority over the financial system, and that, currently, Osborne is an accountant balancing books who doesn’t care why, that he’s not looking after his customers which means the country will eventually go bust.

“Jeremy will inherit a mess,” stated Murphy. Then, he went on to explain the importance of introduction People’s Quantitative Easing which some have deemed dangerous. “Is it dangerous to build hospitals, schools, and social housing?” he asked. Murphy went on to talk about the need for a progressive tax system too, with more regulations on company structures: “Rich CEOs are not doing this for long term growth or because they’re worth it.” He stressed the importance of closing the tax gap for a more prosperous future – one where we can bury Thatcher’s TINA (There Is No Alternative).

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Photo: Shaun Gordon

When Jezz took the stage, the room went a bit nuts. It’s clear the man is creating a wave of excitement throughout the community and it was a first for many of us, seeing enthusiasm for politics on this scale. Corbyn is a very likeable, humble character who began by thanking his team and all the volunteers who had organised the highly successful rally in less than a week. He also thanked those who supported the miners’ strikes and opposed the Iraq war, expressing alliance with long-term campaigners, having taken a stand on many issues for many years.

One of the things that seemed to excite Corbyn most about the campaign was the amount of young people getting involved. He said that when they went to a packed-out Camden Town Hall, there were teenagers trying to climb in through the window, instigating laughs from around the room.

Jezza expressed the campaign’s aims to bring people together, to look forward at possibilities in the face of a Tory government which seems to be aiming to reconfigure society to the thirties. Either 1930s or 1830s, he wasn’t sure. He explained that his support for the Labour manifesto had always been present but that there was a fundamental flaw in the banking crisis – it wasn’t brought about by greedy nurses and low wage workers, but by an unregulated banking system and massive bonuses, as well as crazy investments made in the USA. Then, the government brought in quantitative easing and put shares in holding companies.

Interestingly, Corbyn mentioned that someone else had suggested he run for leader. He continuously stated that he wants us to open up a serious debate on the entirety of party policy, something which is partly happening in the media, but especially on social media. With ideas about creating policies more so from the  bottom-up, rather than top-down, Corbyn asked that everyone contributes to ideas and takes part, because not all great ideas started around a table of MPs.

Briefly, Corbyn made references to his character assassination in the press by saying that he would not be engaging with the politics of abuse and personal criticism, that this turns people off process, and we are more intelligent than that. He said we can aim to bring about social change together, as a whole, and that politics is not about leaving it to somebody else – he’s been in trade unions all his life and proud of it.

Jeremy then ran through some of his core ideals:

·         A national investment bank to replace the private finance sector
·         Stop selling off public sector services to private sectors
·         End zero-hour contracts
·         Invest in manufacturing industry
·         £10 an hour minimum wage as proposed by TUC
·         More social housing
·         End the systematic degradation of education and educators
·         No nursery fees, access for all to socialisation and play
·         Create a family of schools
·         Cooperative workplaces rather than endless, unlimited competition
·         Raising corporation tax by 0.5% to pay for free university
·         More adult opportunity for education
·         Repeal the Health and Social Care Act
·         Stop going to war alongside USA
·         Nuclear disarmament
·         Humanitarian approach towards displaced people
·         Egalitarian society
·         Complete opposition to austerity

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Photo: Shaun Gordon

On a final note, Corbyn stressed the importance of social media, so that we can bypass the narrative of Rupert Murdoch which condemns benefit claimants, making room for a cold and nasty society. Corbyn ended on the note that we are all more than capable of optimistic discussion rather than sitting at home getting angrier and angrier at the television. There is hope for a more together, happier society. There is an alternative.

Overall, the evening was a series of thoroughly engaging debates and talks which made ears prick up and voices growl with passion. It was certainly refreshing to hear someone talk about concrete plans without the usual airy spiel that usually comes hand in hand with politics. Not only that, but Jeremy seems genuinely interested in talking to the people around him and engaging people in the debate. It’s anyone’s guess what could happen from here, but whatever does, our Corbo has certainly caused a stir, opened up a fair few conversations, and that can’t be a bad thing. Can it?

All views expressed here are that of my own and not LeftLion’s.

Jeremy Corbyn attended a rally at Nottingham Playhouse and at Nottingham Albert Hall on Thursday 20 August.

Jeremy for Labour Leader website

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