A Night with Jeremy Corbyn
It’s been a big week for Jeremy Corbyn (or Jezza as he’s becoming more affectionately known) – not only has he been causing a riot in the House of Commons with his fresh approach to PQT, but his university tour led him to Liverpool in a bid to win over the city’s students.
If you managed to get a ticket to his speech, you’ll already know that the UoL students didn’t need much convincing when it came to showing their support for the new Labour leader. The atmosphere in Mountford Hall was positively electrifying and by the end of Corbyn’s speech the audience was literally eating out of the palm of his hand. His ‘laid back’ approach to public speaking obviously worked a charm with the younger audience – there wasn’t a tie in sight and the lectern was rendered immediately useless as he moved out to speak openly at the front of the stage.
Corbyn covered a range of issues from the mishandled migrant crisis to the Tories’ tax credit cuts; all subjects which produced a favourable reaction from the crowd. He expressed the gratification he felt during his leadership campaign that “people were prepared to say what they believed, people were prepared to dream and people were prepared to recognise the history that we all come from – of those who fought for the right to vote, of those who fought for women to have the right to vote, those that fought for equality legislation, human rights legislation and all those other things. AND those who wanted a world of peace and not a world of war.”
Whilst all this sounds very poetic and idealistic, the mood that Corbyn identified was one that was palpable in the Guild that evening – people are eager for change and whether that’s through Labour or not, it can only be a positive that so many of us are becoming re-engaged with the political efficacy of our country. It was with pride that he spoke of his future hopes for our government: “All I want is an open democratic process, where everyone’s ideas, inspiration, knowledge and optimism can be shared with others.”
What was perhaps the most inspiring element of the evening was the sincerity of Corbyn’s humanity. It radiated from him in such a genuine way that whether you agree with his policies or not, there can be no doubt over his passion for social equality. Unlike with many other politicians, there seemed to be no hidden political agenda in his address – he was just a man talking to fellow human beings about the values of community and compassion. His authenticity made it difficult to oppose any of the criticisms he made towards Britain’s current state of austerity, and whilst he has another four years to go until the 2020 election, I for one am excited to watch his journey as the Leader of the Opposition unfold.
After Corbyn left the stage to relentless cheers and applause, we at Ellipsis, alongside writers from LSRadio and The Sphinx, were lucky enough to meet the man himself. Being allowed one question each, we were able to ask him about his future plans for the Labour party (all whilst feeling very important and special).
Ellipsis: Basically, after the #grantsnotcuts protest yesterday, we were wondering aside from the fees debate what you’ve got planned for the next four years. How are you going to win the students over?
JC: We’re going to win the students over by a policy of investment in our education. I want the party to adopt a policy of not charging student fees and also restoring grants where they’re necessary for students. I’ve been elected leader but I don’t dictate policy, the policy debate has to be done. I want that policy to happen and I suspect you want that policy to happen – let’s go for it. It’ll affect the next generation not yours but I think what’s good is the number of students that turned out to all the demonstrations have actually all been turning out for the next generation of students so well done.
Ellipsis: During your campaign there was a lot of use of words like ‘unelectable’ and ‘radical’, just generally people were saying that there is too much of a move to the left. How would you take that criticism when moving into the general election and would you argue that Britain is ready for a surge to the left?
JC: Well yes I’ve stopped reading all the criticism. There aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t reply to any personal abuse or criticism, it doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t use it either, I don’t abuse anybody. I put my point
LSRadio: In the 2015 election, 191 women were elected making 29% of MPs women which is a record high. Why do you think women are misrepresented proportionally in parliament and what do you think the Labour government can do to change that?
JC: The selection process, whilst we do have all women shortlists which is an improvement, we do have women councillors in the party and that is a big improvement – there is a problem about support for candidates, there’s a problem with support for working class candidates in the Labour party. I have proposed to the National Executive that we support candidates far more, both in the selection process and then later on in the election process. There’s also a way in which parliament operates but there’s also an issue of sexism within our society. I have, I hope, set an example by appointing a majority of women in the Shadow Cabinet for the first time ever – there are sixteen women and fifteen men and im going to continue that in all other appointments that I make.
— Harry Anderson (@Guild_Pres) November 5, 2015
LSRadio: Do you think grammar schools have a place in our education system?
JC: I would rather we ended selective education personally. I did go to a grammar school myself and my great contribution to the grammar school was to put up proposals to the debating society that we became a comprehensive; sadly I was defeated. My dad later on became the school governor and was similarly defeated at the school governor’s meeting. I would prefer none selective education but I also think that we’ve got to make sure that all of our schools and all of our education system works for the best of all children. I become concerned about the competitive nature and the way that secondary schools operate, the community they have to operate in which means that students aged 13 and 14 who look as though they’re not going to do so well at GCSEs are discouraged from applying for other subjects and not given great opportunities. We are only young once – you’re only a school student once, you’ve got to absolutely make the very best of it. I spend a lot of time in the company of teachers, I understand what they’re going through, I understand the stresses that they’re under and we need more support in schools, not less support in schools; and also simply every student matters the same as every other one no matter however brilliant they might be. We’re not all going to get to Oxbridge. I didn’t actually go anywhere so democracy does work.
The Sphinx: Thousands of students across the country get exploited by dodgy landlords every year. What would you do to protect students?
JC: I represent a constituency that is already over a third private rented sector, not all but many of those are students on six month contracts. They’re afraid to complain about their conditions to their local authorities because they’ll face retribution or get evicted from their properties – so, I’ve asked our housing team to bring forward comprehensive measures for security of tenure, security of decent conditions, requirement of decent conditions, registration of all properties and registration of all landlords. And also introducing rent regulations for student rent because in my community to rent a flat in my constituency will cost about £300 a week. So who can afford that? And actually what it’s leading to is a social cleansing of the moment in London but every other inner city area is going to follow next. It’s already beginning to happen in Manchester, happening a bit in Birmingham, happening certainly in York; so yes, I’m very keen on that and that’s a policy we’re working on.
The Sphinx: If Jeremy Hunt’s damaging Junior Doctor’s contracts pass in 2016, will a 2020 Labour victory reverse the changes?
JC: Absolutely we’ll reverse them. We’ve opposed these changes all along the way and I must say it’s devastating for junior doctors who work really hard, seven years training, going through the junior doctor experience to suddenly be told they’re worth less, their wages are being cut, their conditions are being cut, they’re expected to work longer and longer hours. I want doctors to be able to work in a secure environment where they are not routinely abused or totally exhausted by what is going on.
If Corbyn’s got you feeling all politically hot under the collar, find out here about the Labour’s #missingmillion campaign which is taking place nationwide from Friday 23 October to Sunday 25 October. Join fellow activists in their bid to persuade non-voters to register before the controversial ‘Individual Electoral Register’ comes into play next month.