Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Jeremy Corbyn's Lancaster visit offers his ‘New Politics’ - Politics with People in mind

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at Lancaster Priory. Photo © Ben Soffa
Cheryl Hale was one of hundreds who attended a meeting organised by Lancaster Labour with Jeremy Corbyn at Lancaster Priory last week. Here's her report...

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t really do Facebook. I occasionally comment, I rarely post and I’ve never taken a pouty selfie in my life (or any other kind of selfie, for that matter). I browse, and it was while browsing on Thursday 22nd October that I saw a post advertising a forthcoming visit to Lancaster by Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Opposition.

The title for the evening was ‘Introducing the New Politics’, and it was this that intrigued me. I clicked the link, expressed an interest and secured my place to hear Corbyn and others speak. I was instructed to arrive at the Priory the following Thursday evening from 7 o’clock for a 7.30 start.

Crowds outside Lancaster Priory. Photo © Ben Soffa

Living very close to the Priory, I left the house at 6.45, assuming, rather naively it turned out, that I’d be one of the first people there, and arrived at 6.55pm. By that time, however, the queue stretched down the entire length of the Priory and down the steps, illustrating the public interest in Corbyn, and just how ready people are for a new kind of politics.

Cat Smith speaking at Lancaster Priory. Photo © Ben Soffa

By 7.30pm, the Priory was filled to capacity and the evening commenced. Lancaster University student Cat Finnerty spoke first, giving an eloquent and informed speech about the need to register for voting in light of forthcoming changes to constituency boundaries. Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, then spoke about the impact of spending cuts on policing in the county before Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith spoke about her experiences as our Member of Parliament since being elected on 7th May.

The main speaker was, of course, Jeremy himself, who spoke at length about a diverse range of subjects, from mental health to the proposed cuts to tax credits to fracking to the British steel industry to the NHS. He talked about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and about his plans for the economy.

Despite what certain elements of the British media would have us believe, at no time did Corbyn sound naïve or idealistic. Rather, he presents politics with a humanitarian face. What the other parties seem to forget is that politics is about people; Corbyn clearly gets this. Speaking without a script and only occasionally referring to his notes, he related every single comment he made to the real-life impact on real-life people. Everything he said made sense.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at Lancaster Priory. Photo © Ben Soffa

What came across most strongly to me is that this is a man who cares about the lives of people he has never met. He sees the human impact of decisions made in Westminster. Corbyn has already altered Prime Minister’s Questions by asking David Cameron questions posed by the electorate, rather than by himself or MPs: another example of how he's putting people at the heart of politics. This is the sort of politician we want, and the sort of politician we need. This is the “New Politics”.

Repeatedly throughout his speech, Corbyn was interrupted by spontaneous rounds of applause, and received a standing ovation at the end of the evening.

Whether you agree with him or not, whether you’re a Labour supporter or not, there can be no argument that under Jeremy Corby, the Labour Party now offers a definite alternative to the Conservatives. Voter turnout for General Elections has risen slightly for the last four elections, but at 66.1% in 2015, it’s still way below the 1950 high of 83.9% (www.ukpolitical.info). It’s my fervent hope that those hundreds of thousands of people who choose not to vote will realise that they have a voice, and will become engaged with politics, if not active. After all, it’s very hard to argue with apathy, and with two such different major political parties, there’s now a real choice for voters.

At the end of the evening, Cat Smith stated that this would not be the last visit to Lancaster by Jeremy Corbyn. I would urge anyone who missed this chance to hear him, anyone who is undecided for whom to vote, or even whether to vote, to listen to what this man has to say. You never know, you might like what you hear.

And if you don’t, in the words of Corbyn himself, “That’s fine.” At least you’re taking part in the “New Politics”.

• Lancaster Labour is at www.lancasterandfleetwoodlabour.org/lancaster | Follow Lancaster Labour on Twitter @LancasterLabour

• Follow Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter @jeremycorbyn

Other political parties are available.

Read the Lancaster Guardian's report of the meeting

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