Ruskin House, the home of Croydon’s Labour and Trade Union Movement, was packed on Tuesday August 4 as political enthusiasts gathered to hear testimonies from Labour party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn.
By 7pm no empty seats could be found in or outside as many were left standing, anticipating the arrival of the MP with the rock star status who marched onto the stage to the sound of the reggae song: ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ by The Wailers, blasting through the speakers.
No other song could be more suited for the occasion, as reggae music became increasingly popular during the early 1980’s, a time when the British working class united with second-generation immigrants, in opposition to Conservative anti-union policies.
Corbyn told a crowd of over 500 supporters that the Labour party needs to stop accepting austerity.
“Austerity is a political agenda, and it is possible to rediscover the basic principles and roots of our party, to put forward some serious credible alternatives that excite and mobilise people,” said Corbyn.
Corbyn’s response has come at a time of discussion about whether Labour needs to move further into the centre ground to win over voters and his message is clear: “If we want to be a credible, representative force… we won’t achieve it if all we can offer is austerity light, further cuts and further lowering of living standards for the poorest and most vulnerable.”
He also sympathized with younger generations about house prices and shortages, not forgetting education, and university fees and he expressed his distaste for racism, islamaphobia, anti-immigration and more recently the demonization of benefit claimants.
“What are we doing to a whole generation of families and children? There is a science of shortage and allocation. I want to become an expert in the science of building, providing and eliminating that problem”[thundering applause]
His message was loud and clear, get, up, stand up, stand up for your rights.
Speaking to ELL about the recent surge of support in Croydon, Jeremy said: “Croydon has a wonderful tradition of trade unionism and people were feeling very dispirited and deflated, so we’ve managed to light a candle and the candle is burning very brightly.”
Prominent Labour MPs such as John Woodcock and David Winnick have argued that a win for Corbyn in the leadership election would bring the Labour party back to the unelectable 1980s, preventing the recapture of Tory voters they believe is necessary to challenge the Conservatives in the 2020 election.
The Labour Leadership opinion poll conducted from July 24-27 by Opinium has seen Corbyn surpassed by Andy Burnham, suggesting that he is the candidate voters believe can win the 2020 election. As far as Croydon is concerned though, Corbynmania has definitely taken hold.
By Peter Littlejohns and Melissa Wills