Jeremy Corbyn, the outsider who now appears to be running away with the Labour Party leadership contest, is to speak at a public meeting in Croydon on August 4.
The meeting, from 7pm at Ruskin House on Coombe Road, has been organised by the Croydon TUC and, unlike other events locally staged for national political figures such as Tory Mayor Boris Johnson – which charged an entry fee – David Cameron or Ed Miliband, it is free and open to all.
Corbyn’s candidature has prompted the Daily Torygraph to encourage dyed-in-the-blue Conservatives to donate £3 to Labour to try to undermine the party’s open primary, which allows “supporters” each to have a vote alongside party members and affiliated members of unions. Corbyn’s groundswell of popularity around the constituencies has panicked some in his own party into calling for the leadership contest to be halted.
So far, Corbyn has more nominations from Constituency Labour Parties than any other candidate (though this does not necessarily reflect individual voting intentions), with 109 to Andy Burnham’s 101, Yvette Cooper’s 87 and the paltry 14 for Liz Kendall.
Notably, though, those 14 for Blairite Kendall include Croydon South (the other two Croydon constituencies have yet to declare), as well as Streatham (the seat where Chuka Umunna is MP), Camberwell and Peckham (Harriet Harman) and Dulwich and West Norwood (formerly the seat of Dame Tessa Jowell).
So Islington MP Corbyn is very much venturing into what passes for the “heartland” of Kendall support by travelling this far south of the river for his meeting, which comes barely a week before voting begins.
Corbyn has engaged many disillusioned voters because of his rejection of the consensus over the austerity agenda: he was one of the Labour MPs who rebelled against party orders earlier this month and voted against the Conservative Government’s Welfare Bill, while Harman and many other Labour MPs, including Lambeth South’s Steve Reed OBE, merely abstained to allow the Tory bill to pass.
“Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity,” Corbyn said. “There is money available – after all, the government has just given tax breaks to the richest 4 per cent of households.
“Where there are tough choices, we will always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable. But in an economy that works for all, we will be able to ask those with income and wealth to spare to contribute a little more.
“You just cannot cut your way to prosperity, so Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels.
“Labour will close the deficit through building a strong, growing economy that works for all, not by increasing poverty.”
In Croydon, the Labour-run council has recently loaned £3 million of public money to a retail development, while rates of homelessness continue to increase and the numbers using the town centre’s nightly soup kitchen also continue to rise.
The organisers of next Tuesday’s meeting say, “Corbyn’s campaign has been subject to much media speculation, and smears from some, including some other MPs. Please come to the meeting, hear what Jeremy has to say, and decide whether you think you would want to support him for yourself.”
And as one figure in Croydon Labour told Inside Croydon: “It will be interesting to see how many of Croydon’s 40 Labour councillors attend to hear what Corbyn has to say.”
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