On Saturday, myself and our social media manager Kat Fairhurst attended the Labour Live festival, being intrigued by the ‘Corbyn effect’.  

I have never been a fan of far-left views, believing instead that it is good to be in the political centre where you have more freedom to listen to different perspectives. But I was impressed with the turnout from all ages, which some from the ‘establishment’ doubted. Clearly, Corbyn’s popularity had the expected effect.

Labour Live 2018: Sending a message of unity and strength

Once we got our press passes, we headed straight for the various stalls and tents and got excited by the socialist bookshop stall — ‘Bookmarks’, selling Comrade Corbyn by Rosa Prince and Women & Power by Mary Beard. We also got talking to Chris Ayton who was there selling the books about the politics of today. Ayton is very passionate about current issues, including the NHS, Trump and Grenfell. One of his comments concerning the  divide between the rich and poor really stuck with me:

‘I feel that if they [Grenfell victims] were rich, they would be alive!’

I then got talking to mental health campaigners who were part of the youth Labour campaign — mental health being an issue the government clearly does not like discussing due to underfunding. I asked them why young people nowadays experience so many problems, like depression and anxiety. The reply was that capitalism is adding additional strain on top of exam pressure, finding a job, and the influence of social media. This, coupled with the fact that every sector from the arts to the sciences is now far more competitive than ever before. He further discussed the dire funding situation:

local Clinical Commissioning Groups make choices of where funding should go in the area but this should be ring-fenced so it’s more fair’.

I myself had a quick look at the statistics on this and found that out of two-hundred and three CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) in areas of England, 29 have not met the standards that were set in 2017/18. As a result,  many have likely suffered from longer waiting lists just to see a mental health professional.

Subjects similar to this were discussed at the talk ‘Against the Grain’, led by Gary Younge and Dawn Foster. Younge was lucky enough to gain a bursary from the Guardian which enabled him to study journalism at City University and join the newspaper in 1993. He has since covered major events such as Nelson Mandela getting elected and does work in America.

Labour Live 2018: Sending a message of unity and strength

The subject of the generational divide has been widely discussed since the 2008 recession crisis. Dawn Foster, also a journalist for the Guardian, spoke about her experiences of growing up in the ’90s. She recalled how life was not easy when you come from a jobless household. Work was scarce and her local area became run down — while housing prices went up. As she spoke, I realised that these were the very issue that made so many people vote for Brexit.

One factor that the Labour Party has struggled to shake off since the election of Corbyn, is Tony Blair. Many supporters of the party felt that their views were not being heard. They did not appreciate illegal wars, or the reign of the free market economy.

Foster herself stated that in 2015:

I spoiled my ballot paper as I didn’t want Chuka Umunna to win’.

However, I feel that Foster reiterated what many attendees felt, which is that Labour supporters want the party to go back to its socialist roots.

Labour Live 2018: Sending a message of unity and strength

Whilst listening to the various discussions and roaming around the field, I could sense an atmosphere and intensity like no other. The day was a jolly good way of sending a strong message to the government. The event gave off a true community feeling, with strangers sitting down talking on benches over a pint, burger and free ice-cream.

Corbyn’s speech was the highlight, of course. He spoke about housing and the NHS, and how there are record numbers of new members:

‘We are the Labour Party that will prioritize the housing crisis across this country. We did it once, we will do it again’.

He mentioned policy ideas on how to get more money for these services, pledging to tax corporations and the rich 26 pence for every pound to pay for free education. He also spoke about wanting the UK to be a place for human rights, equality and justice for all.

Overall, it was a good day. Still, I wondered like many how exactly Labour would pay for all these great solutions. John McDonnell gave a possible answer:

‘I will find the magic money tree.

A fairer society for all. There’s a name for it: Socialism. It’s Socialism we are after’.

Not sure if I am convinced yet, but watch this space …

(Ticket sales — 13000+ not including walk-ins)

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