Financial Times: extracts from the account of ‘the official launch of the Corbyn campaign’
Joshua Chaffin, a European Union correspondent for the FT, who writes about trade, environment and energy policy, reports on the official launch of the Corbyn campaign in an auditorium on the outskirts of Manchester. The following are positive extracts from his article.
He met Stan Webster, a retired teacher from Wigan, who left Labour while it was led by Tony Blair; Stan recalled the sensation when he and his wife first listened to Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist leader of the Labour party. “For the first time in my adult life, we were beginning to hear policies that resonated with our daily lives.”
Mr Webster disdained “the window-dressing of infrastructure spending” and said industrial communities did not want mere support schemes. “You want independence. You want the right to work.”
“Brilliant!” Jan Smith, a woman with an anti-fracking pin in her lapel, said afterwards. “This is the core of our values,” her friend Lin Partridge, a retired National Health Service worker, enthused. “This is the proper Labour party!”
For many such supporters, Mr Corbyn feels like the first real alternative they have been offered after a generation of lookalike centrists whom they view as milder shades of the Conservatives.
“What’s the point of being in power if you’re just doing Tory policies?” one asked. That attitude is also a result of the shallow legacy — as they see it — left by Mr Blair’s New Labour, particularly among many northern voters who felt their lot did not meaningfully improve despite increased public spending and urban regeneration projects.
In Mr Corbyn they have selected an unapologetic socialist who, according to a leaked draft of the party’s manifesto, wants to renationalise the railways, postal service and parts of the power industry, restore the sway of once-powerful trade unions and abolish university tuition
Paul Longshaw, a local Labour councillor, said Corbyn policies such as shoring up the health service and boosting the minimum wage appealed to many voters when they heard them without the filter of a hostile media.
Maggie Smith, a retired teacher at the Salford rally, said Mr Corbyn “brought me back to Labour. I left because of Tony Blair”. Surely New Labour had accomplished something, she was asked? Eventually, Mrs Smith cited the Sure Start programme — introduced in 1998 to improve health and early education for children — but then noted the Conservatives had demolished it.
Standing nearby was James Butterworth, 30, a teacher from Prestwich. He said he would vote for Labour for the first time after shunning the party “because of Tony Blair” and his participation in the Iraq wars — an issue that still festers in the party.
He was not interested in supposedly practical alternatives, saying: “If you feel passionate about something, you have to stick to your principles.