Jeremy Corbyn stopped the traffic yesterday evening in Westminster.
For more than two hours, supporters waited in bright sunshine for the Labour leader to address them. Outraged at the actions of the party’s coup plotting MPs who were meeting behind closed doors inside the Palace of Westminster the crowd chanted again and again ‘Corbyn In Tories Out’! They roared their approval at a range of speakers from the Labour movement, among them many senior trade unionists.
Leading the way was Unite’s very own Jennie Formby, south east regional secretary and Labour NEC member, who made it clear this union will continue to back the Labour leader. Formby said she was “proud to be speaking” at the rally which had seen “a massive turnout.”
She called for unity at a time when fighting the divided Tory party is more important than ever before, and hit out at claims that Corbyn did not campaign for the Remain camp hard enough.
“The truth is that Jeremy was honest and straight-forward about a complex question,” she said. “He didn’t insult voters’ intelligence by suggesting the EU is perfect. But he was absolutely clear that we should all vote Remain and then fight to reform it to make it fairer and more responsive to the needs of ordinary working people.
‘Just not right’
“It is just not right to blame immigration for the deprivation caused by the government’s dogmatic determination to inflict austerity and cuts in local communities,” Formby added.
“The poorest areas have been left behind by globalisation and they are facing an epidemic of insecure, low paid jobs, no way of getting on the housing ladder, young people’s hopes for the future being destroyed day by day.”
She condemned those in the Labour Party who are “ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Party members who have demonstrated time and again their total support for Jeremy Corbyn as our democratically elected leader.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that at this time of greatest peril, the very people we should be representing are being abandoned as a result,” Formby noted.
Formby added that whatever happens in the coming months, Unite will “continue to fight to protect workers’ rights.”
“We will do everything we can counter the racist backlash that has reared its ugly head,” she said. “And we will do this with the support of all our members and comrades. But we need a strong and united Labour Party to lead us into the next government.”
The demonstration was organised in just a few hours, and the crowd spilled out past Parliament Square to the streets beyond, the police eventually being forced to seal off the square to traffic.
From the front it was impossible to get a sense of the size of the crowd who had come to tell the plotters exactly what they thought of them. Then we heard the numbers, first four thousand, then five, then minutes later ten thousand strong ‘according the police estimates’.
The journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason, said that in this time of post-referendum Brexit crisis a Labour government was now required. He asked the crowd “Who will speak for England?” (the UK of course) – echoing Arthur Greenwood who did so while the Tories dithered over fighting the Nazis in 1940.
The point was clear – Labour and its elected leader Jeremy Corbyn must speak for the people of this country.
John McDonnell was roared onto the platform – a customised fire engine – as was Diane Abbot. Then Dennis Skinner arrived with a smile. “I only heard about this five minutes ago,” the veteran MP said, clearly astonished at the numbers before him.
He told us “dodgy Dave” had just left in his limo – Cameron almost seemed an irrelevance. He then urged us to “battle” for Jeremy – “We are going to win.”
Andt then, right on cue, urging unity of both the party and the country as a whole, the Labour leader took to the stage.