I arrived in Parliament Square at 5pm full of anticipation and keen to get to the front of the crowd, wondering if we could really bring a positive from the dreadful events of last week and the past few days.
Although there were a couple of Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn t-shirts to be seen it wasn’t clear where the speakers were going to be standing. Soon a van was being emptied and red t-shirts were being handed out and it was apparent that the meeting was going to be focussed on the southern edge of the green.
I got myself a prime spot, just to one side of the low stage being set up, and just on the step up to the grass to guarantee a clear view. Already there were more people milling around and once the music started an atmosphere began to be generated. There were all sorts of people arriving, families, older people, many young people, all races and colours as well as disabled people on the path in front of me. The woman beside me should have been at home nursing her migraine but this was just too important for her to miss. I guess that every other minority group we all care about and include were also with us but they were not immediately apparent in such a diverse group. Banners started to appear from Trade Unions and local Momentum groups, with one guy wandering around with a placard suggesting that Wessex should declare independence. My favourite home-made placard was saying Africans For Corbyn. A broad church indeed and if we can inspire a whole continent we could really do something!
Soon the compere introduced herself and along with another young woman led the chanting “Tories Out, Corbyn In”, with just one moment of concern as Tories In Ooops! was somehow shouted from the platform. The old slogan “Jez We Can” rang out, with an addition in the way of Again! Being included at the end.
Terrific speeches by the leaders of the Fire Brigade Union and ASLEF drew cheers and howls of derision as the rebels holding their meeting were disparagingly mentioned. A moment of humour came as we were told by Mick Whelen of ASLEF that he’d hated Thatcher so much he set his alarm clock an hour earlier so he could hate her even more each day. We knew how he felt!
Leeds MP Richard Burgon made an impassioned speech, full of great points forcibly made with old-fashioned finger jabbing done in a way that only a left-leaning speaker can manage. The new politics of respect were being played out as the positive messages were emphasised and Richard’s fellow MP for Leeds Central was mentioned and criticised but not abused.
Soon John McDonnell arrived to a crescendo of cheers only beaten when Dennis Skinner was recognised as he climbed onto the roof of the Fire Engine which had had to replace the original stage such was the crowd now with us. Good old fashioned common sense was being spoken which would surely appeal to the ordinary people of the county if only they’d listen to us instead of reading what the Sun and Mail say Labour now stand for.
Finally and to a roar fit for the man we all regard with respect, admiration and awe for his stoic refusal to bend to the events of the day arrived. The meeting he’d come from was not mentioned, great –he was simply going to spell out his and our vision for the future! His points have been summed up brilliantly on Twitter so I will not repeat them now.
All too soon the rally was over with some people drifting away while others headed for the back of the fire engine to further proclaim their support for Jeremy. None of those MPs criticising Jeremy could have brought so many people out at 24 hours notice. Even an event with all of them would have been a quiet and dreary affair with the passion from the speakers and support of the crowd likely to be so different to what I was part of.
As I walked back to the station I remembered one priceless moment as a tour bus came by and the host on board with the microphone joined in with the chanting and his passengers applauded their support. If we can win people over like that then surely given the efforts of the 10,000 plus at the rally and the obvious support we have among others anything is possible.