19 Days Remaining

Monday 24th
posted by Morning Star in Features

On Friday night the Labour leadership favourite received a superstar reaction at Islington’s Union Chapel. BOB ORAM reports

WELL, they said it would be a celebration — and it was. A celebration of hope, of community, of values and of social democracy.

This is Jeremy Corbyn’s first big event in his own backyard and the atmosphere was electric, as the genuine spectre of a Corbyn victory has transformed British politics for ever.

You can sense that people know history is being made all around them as young and old, from all walks of life, settled down on the wooden benches in the glorious Union Chapel in Islington for a night of politics, music and fun.

It was never ever meant to be like this, and first up is Owen Jones, in his broad Stockport drawl excitedly describing Jeremy’s optimistic, hopeful vision. Hope is, he argues, why so many people have flocked to the campaign.

At last they have someone who is challenging the mantra that there is no alternative and saying that young people today should not have a worse life than their parents.

But the attacks on Corbynism are unrelenting and Jones stresses that nothing is yet certain, necessitating increased effort and solidarity by everyone in the days and months ahead.

The evening’s MC, singer Robb Johnson, then returns with his guitar. Without his band he is like a minstrel from days long gone — a glorious folky storyteller.

With a cheeky grin, his tunes dissect the political elite and highlight the injustice and misery peddled by the right wing.

“Be reasonable and demand the impossible now” has never seemed so apt.

After songs lampooning Michael Gove and class injustice and celebrating Bob Crow and Stop the War, he ends with Win, Lose or Draw — “We are always unbeaten” to remind us once again that the hard work is not going to stop.

Unison South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye and PCS official and Black Pride activist Phyll Opoku give assured and entertaining speeches to make the point that this is a campaign for everyone, that we all need to get involved and “turn up the volume on society” because we are the real majority.

Then there is the “bonkers” act that has all week been bothering the right-wing press. Well, I have to admit having a soft spot for magicians.

I love Dynamo and, while not on his level, Dr Ian Saville is skilled, funny and very entertaining. His quantitative easing trick has money constantly reappearing in the hands of the bankers and his ripping up the Guardian on stage only for it then to reappear fully formed in his hands, but with a new Vote Corbyn headline, is actually brilliant. Magical in fact.

Thee Faction said on Facebook the morning after this gig: “Jeremy’s campaign isn’t about Jeremy and this gig wasn’t about us … We are honoured to be part of something much bigger and more important which is about all of us together.

There’s no better reason to play music.”

Always humble, comradely and always ready to step up to the plate for good causes, they had worked really hard for this night and play their hearts out is exactly what they do.

Although they talked about nerves beforehand, these were soon overcome as they delivered a simply sublime set.

With great acoustics, the sound was pure quality, the vocals clear and the instruments sharp and tight. The brass section is dazzling and their vocal harmonies as good as on record.

They are all clearly enjoying themselves and the sight of lead singer Billy Brentford’s contorted face peering out over the packed pews is priceless.

Like a man who had ants in his pants, forever moving, he leads the front line tirelessly.

This was a Thee Faction classics set list with tracks from all past records — Choose Your Enemy, Deft Left, Rent Strike, 366, Conservative Friend, Bastards, Better than Wages, Don’t Call on Rock ’n’ Roll (Call on GDH Cole), Soapbox, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific marvellously reworked as “What Jeremy Said,” Union Man, Sausage Machine and (You’ve Got The) Numbers (Why Don’t You Use It).

And then Jeremy walks out on stage to heartfelt applause and respect. He appears not awkward but still not quite sure how how to take it.

He is soon in his stride though — a fluent orator, passionate and warm, yet utterly real. He is obviously human, but it is his genuine humanity that oozes out from him, that separates him so well from the pack.

He is not interested in himself — only in what he believes in and the values it teaches. It is the uncompromising passion and belief that he radiates that warms him to everyone in the church.

Some are his constituents, some are seeing him for the first time, but the effect is the same.

This is why there is so much energy and excitement in his team — so many young people volunteering and working tirelessly for a vision of a future that they believed had died with New Labour’s birth.

People are “voting because they want to see a coherent, credible and inclusive alternative to what is happening under the Tories,” he states, “not austerity-lite” — and the whole place erupts.

He articulates a vision “that can bring people together and build a very different society, one which ends discrimination and the vast chasm between the richest and poorest in society.”

Jeremy shies away from nothing, no deception, no meaningless platitudes or promises that appear insincere. You can sense he really is the one the Tories fear and we can rest assured that, whatever happens, the struggle will continue.

This campaign will last way beyond September 12 and if it brings opportunities for more nights like this, then “singing down the government” will simply never have been so much fun.