Yesterday, The Labour Party Conference swung into action for the first time after the General Election defeat, and with the newly elected leader Jeremy Corbyn dominating the headlines. He started the day with an early start on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show with a lengthy wide ranging interview from Sinn Fein to the inner workings of the Labour Party. He took credit from across the political spectrum for his cool, calm performance especially with his refreshing nature of a politician being asked a question, and answering it. John Prescott called it ‘the best interview from a Labour leader for 10 years’. This is high praise from a man who is an ally of Tony Blair, who said during the leadership election ‘If your hearts with Corbyn, get a heart transplant’.
Corbyn then went onto the Young Labour Conference where he spoke extensively on issues such as Mental Health, Animal Rights, Trade Unions and Young Members. He called on the 28,000 new young labour members to take action in the party and spread the message of tackling inequality and fighting austerity. ‘We cannot have an individualistic society which is morally, economically and politically wrong. We are all an accident away from needing a place to stay, a hospital bed or welfare.’
He urged party members to welcome the new members with open arms and to keep them engaged to bring about a mass party democratic movement. However, this will not be without difficulties. Many MP’s did not support his leadership campaign, including all of Wolverhampton’s MP’s, which backed other candidates, with Emma Reynolds (MP for Wolverhampton North East) being one of the first MP’s to resign from the Shadow Cabinet after Corbyn’s election. With big issues such as Trident being tackled at conference, Corbyn faces pressure from MP’s to change his position, but Corbyn has been elected with the strongest mandate of any Labour Leader in history.
After many more speeches throughout the day, Corbyn is charming and incredibly welcoming to his fans. ‘Could I have a photo? I’m standing as a candidate in the West Midlands’, a woman asks. ‘Why Of Course!’ He says with a smile on his face, ‘I’m from Shropshire, just around the corner’. He laughs. They engage in short conversation, and he gives his personal parliament email to her, as he promises to write a letter of support for her. Amongst all the pressure and stress of his first two weeks as leader, he never fails to impress.
Walker Darke at the Party Conference in Brighton, for The Express and Star