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Harpenden – 21st August 2019. Earlier this week Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was in Hertfordshire, where he met local businesses, and then addressed Party members in Stevenage. I’ve never seen our leader speak ‘in the flesh’, so I was happy to have the opportunity to do so.
Full disclosure: I’m not a lifelong Labour member having joined the Party relatively recently. I also would not classify myself as a ‘Corbynite’. I don’t feel that the personalisation of politics is helpful, and I support Labour because I believe the policies it proposes will lead to the creation of a more equitable society. Our leader certainly attracts strong opinion. Some believe he can do no wrong. Others feel he is a threat to national security. Thus I was genuinely excited to see him with ‘no filter’. There were no journalists present, I could simply listen to Mr Corbyn and come to my own conclusions.
Our Labour candidate for Stevenage, Jill Borcherds, introduced Jeremy with genuine warmth and eloquence, and he went on to speak for 20 minutes or so.
First things first. Professionally, I train people to speak to the media, and make public presentations. Thus I was interested in how Jeremy presents. In truth I thought he took a few minutes to get into his stride. Perhaps his mind was still on his previous meeting, but once he had warmed up, he was excellent. He spoke with no notes, and was faultless. His attention to detail is extraordinary, whether that’s recounting a conversation held a few days previously, or indeed when referencing an issue local to Stevenage. Much is made of the fact that Jeremy is now 70, but in terms of his ability to demonstrate command of his subject and communicate clearly, he is outstanding.
There were three main areas of interest for me. He spoke of ridding the country of the curse of zero hours contracts. Close to a million people have such a contract now, and it is a cause of massive insecurity. I’ve supported care workers, employed by agencies commissioned by our local authority here in Hertfordshire, who have been viciously exploited by the terms of these contracts. It is good to know that a Labour government would legislate to abolish them.
Jeremy spoke passionately about plans for a National Education Service, with education opportunities for all from cradle to grave. This is so obviously positive it is hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with it. We need to spend more on education, and in return we will reap the benefits of a better educated workforce in the future. It’s my view that the majority of people will accept tax rises if they know it will lead to investment in education. We just need to get on with it.
Labour is also pledging to create 400,000 new jobs through a green industrial revolution. This is crucial too. Many argue that the destruction of industry through the Midlands and North of the country was one of the reasons that so many people voted to Leave Europe in the 2016 referendum as a protest against what had happened to their communities. Labour’s green industrial strategy aims to address that damage and rebuild our economy on a genuinely sustainable basis, whether that be in the form of investment in tidal power, wind farms, biofuels or hydrogen powered vehicles. Labour has a vision to turn the UK into the world’s leading proponent of green energy sources.
Jeremy’s speech was extremely well received by the hundred or so party faithful in attendance on a warm Tuesday afternoon in Stevenage, but that’s not surprising is it?! The policies our Party has developed, though, are so eminently sensible that we can all feel good about getting behind them and working as hard as we can to help Labour win, whenever the next General Election is called.
One final personal observation. About 98% of Jeremy’s speech was about Labour what aims to deliver. There were a couple of jibes at the expense of Jo Swinson and the current Prime Minister, which the audience enjoyed, but this was about Labour at its best: positive, visionary, ambitious and committed to reducing the obscene inequalities between the wealthiest and poorest in our society. This was our Party, and its leader, demonstrating that the time is right for Labour to be returned to Government.
David Josephs, chair of Hitchin and Harpenden Labour Party
"Since 2010 the gap between the wealthiest in our country and those who face a daily struggle to survive has widened considerably and consistently. It is obscene" Jeremy Corbyn - Leader of the Labour Party