Here on Zelo Street, we try to give Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a fair press. That means passing adverse comment on those who do nothing more than recycle talking points from the right-wing press, and others who believe they can bring back a younger version of the sainted Tone. But it also means being straight with readers about the shortcomings of his leadership - and the misconceptions of many of his supporters.
That, inevitably, brings us to this week’s Corbyn hot topic, which is crowd pulling ability. Jezza journeyed to Liverpool, where he addressed a rally on St George’s Plateau. The crowd grew to such an extent that it spilled over on to Lime Street, which had to be closed to traffic as a result. This was surely proof that the polls were wrong, and the idea that Corbyn was not electable had been swept aside.
Indeed, the Liverpool Echo reported that “Despite rain at the outset of the rally massive crowds - one estimate put the numbers at between 7 - 10,000 - turned up cheering and carrying banners”. Later in the week, the circus moved south to Brighton, and here too the venue for Jezza’s rally was packed to the gunwales. The Independent admitted that there had been “huge crowds”. But not all were happy.
As the Staggers told, “the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, a supporter of Owen Smith in the leadership contest, said he would stay away from Corbyn’s rally. He tweeted: ‘Brighton and Hove doesn't need mass rallies of political activists. It needs a Labour Govt delivering fairer funding and opportunity for all.’ Another councillor said the event was purely for Momentum supporters”.
So is the reaction of those in Brighton and Hove who are not Corbyn fans justified, or is it just so much sour grapes? Is this genuine discontent, or merely more disaffected Blairites, or even nothing more than a bout of nervousness brought on by recent opinion polls? A look at what is happening Stateside may prove instructive.
As Politico has reported, “Donald Trump said he’s puzzled as to why he’s not leading Hillary Clinton by large margins at a rally Wednesday night … ‘We go to Oklahoma, we had 25,000 people. We had 21,000 people in Dallas. We had 35,000 people in Mobile, Alabama. We have these massive crowds … You’ve got thousands of people outside trying to get in [today], and this is one hell of a big stadium’”.
He went on to muse “I hear we’re leading Florida by a bit … I don’t know why we’re not leading by a lot. Maybe crowds don’t make the difference”. But “A Fox News national poll published Tuesday showed Trump trailing Clinton by 10 percentage points, 49 percent to 39 percent”. It was worse in some swing states. As Susan Page Tweeted, “today's new surveys: Clinton +9 [Michigan], +11 [Pennsylvania], up +15 [New Hampshire]”.
Sure, Jeremy Corbyn is not a right-winger, nor a rabble-rouser, and certainly not a bringer of hate and intolerance. But the point on crowds is the same. The crowds come, and all venues can be filled to overflowing, yet the polls show a looming defeat. Worse, in the case of the USA, no-one seriously believes any other result to be likely.
As I said before, it feels hot to all those Corbyn supporters, but no-one else seems to notice. Labour is still heading for a horrible defeat - unless something changes soon.