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Rallying in support of Corbyn's policies in Leeds
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
It was standing room only at the Leeds Socialist Party pre-election rally on Monday night. Over 35 people heard Socialist Party and Labour Party members put the case for the socialist policies in Corbyn's manifesto and how we can fight to kick out the Tories, both in terms of the present government, but also their echoes in the Labour Party who wish to undermine the left-wing shift under Corbyn.
West Yorkshire FBU branch secretary Dave Williams kicked off proceedings pointing out the longstanding links between the FBU and Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. FBU members have been enthused by the alternative they are offering, including at their recent conference.
He also commented on the savage cuts to fire services over the last period, with councillors often celebrating the replacing of two fire stations by one new one as a step forward! The FBU brigade committee had backed TUSC candidates in the past against such cutters, and unfortunately, while Corbyn's election hasn't led to a change in the policy of Labour councillors who are on Fire Authorities, the FBU will continue to oppose cuts to fire services.
Maddy Steeds from the Socialist Students national steering committee, pointed out the huge enthusiasm for Corbyn's policies amongst young people. Thousands flocked to hear him in Hyde Park in Leeds a few weeks ago. Raising the minimum wage and scrapping tuition fees are among Corbyn's policies that offer young people a vision of a better future.
Jackie Murphy, a campaigner with #HandsOffHRI (Huddersfield Royal Infirmary), explained how her involvement in that campaign had opened her eyes. From getting involved in the events group of the campaign she became more and more involved, and seeing Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the 4th March national demo co-initiated by the campaign was a turning point. She's gone from a previous Tory voter to backing Corbyn - saying: "I've always been a socialist but didn't realise it!"
Jackie also paid tribute to Socialist Party members for supporting the campaign from the beginning. A HandsOffHRI activist later commented from the floor that campaigners have felt insulted that Theresa May called them 'scaremongering' on her recent visit to the area and demanded that if that is the case then May should announce that the hospital will not face any cuts.
Socialist Party deputy general secretary and former Labour NEC member, Hannah Sell, was the last of the main speakers. Hannah commented on how Theresa May's disastrous election campaign has really been a continuation of the many u-turns her government made on schools, national insurance and other issues over the past year; in reality this was the real reason for calling the election.
Hannah commented that although many Labour Party members were despondent when the election was called, the Socialist Party pointed out that "Corbyn could win with bold socialist policies". His election campaign has far surpassed what most people expected and has demonstrated that socialist policies aren't only popular with those who voted twice in the Labour leadership elections, but with the public as a whole, even despite the vicious attacks on him.
Outrageously some Labour MPs have tried to sabotage the campaign even in recent days. Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, sent a letter out to voters contrasting Theresa May favourably with Corbyn! Such attacks won't stop with the conclusion of the election, although Corbyn has done well.
Socialist Party members welcome the opportunity to fight for socialist policies in this election and will be out alongside others, after the election in order to continue that fight either to back up a Corbyn-led government, or to fight new rounds of Tory austerity.
There was a varied discussion from the floor, with many people raising the need to keep fighting against austerity, whether new attacks from a Tory government, or to back up Corbyn in fighting to get his policies implemented.
A local teacher raised the issue of Islamophobia being whipped up by May and the Tories, along with Ukip, which in his school - where most pupils are from a Pakistani background - has pupils worried both about future terror attacks, but also the racist backlash of abuse and assaults that could accompany them.
A finance appeal by Leeds Socialist Party branch Fighting Fund organiser Amy Cousens, pointing out the various campaigns Socialist Party members are playing a key role in across Yorkshire, raised over £350 and several people bought copies of the new book 'From Militant to the Socialist Party' which was referenced by a number of speakers during the meeting.
Those attending came away enthused to fight for a Corbyn-led government in the last few days before polling day and to further build the struggle for a socialist society in the coming struggles.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 June 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.