Old and new friends embraced, tears in their eyes and fists in the air. In a small hotel bar in Westminster, more than a hundred volunteers, crammed around a television, had just witnessed the moment Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party.
How did we get here? I have spent more than five years on the left in Labour being laughed at and, frankly, laughing at myself a bit, too. Now, it is no laughing matter – there is an almost 60 per cent consensus on anti-austerity politics in our movement.
It seemed a huge feat just to get Jeremy nominated – let alone elected. I joined others in tweeting and emailing MPs encouraging them to do so, and as soon as it was official that he was standing, a campaign team came together.
Unlike the other candidates, there was no website domain set up months before; no Labour grandees waiting in the wings with a book of blank cheques. I remember our first phone bank. About five young volunteers sharing out a batch of old-school, brick-style mobile phones; impressed at the positivity from the dozen or so members we managed to speak to.
Suddenly, hundreds were wanting to help out. Then thousands were turning up for rallies. What Jeremy had been saying in the hustings was resonating: people wanted a politics that rejected cuts, war and inequality. Our trade unions, one by one began to lend support and the constituency nominations poured in.
In 100 days, Jeremy’s campaign delivered as many events. They engaged more than 50,000 people across the country and inspired generations young and old.
This culminated in a final rally in Jeremy’s own Islington North, where we heard him speak on his – and now our – vision for society. That vision is a Labour Party that debates ideas and forms policy collectively; that will welcome migrants, invest in education, control rents and defend workers’ rights. A Labour Party we can all believe in, with a programme clearly differentiated from the Conservatives.
Jeremy has enthused many young people who failed to turn out in general elections of the past. His message has also resonated with Scottish voters and the “Green-surge” who felt let down by Labour. One of the key parts of the electorate I think people will be surprised to see him gain, too, are those who felt forced to go with Ukip. When people are experiencing a crisis they look for a source – think of the immigration blame game that even Miliband’s Labour lowered itself to indulge in.
But Jeremy has emphasised that many of the problems affecting many people in 2015 are created by financial inequality and an unregulated banking system. Jeremy doesn’t just talk about the type of society we need – he offers us a strategy for winning it.
Throughout the day of the announcement, as the Refugees Welcome action petered out, our crowd of volunteers flooded into the streets joyously – recalling highlights of the campaign and hopes for the future. By 10pm, having served an enthusiastic Corbyn lobby for a straight 12 hours, the small bar closed.
This morning, from the incessant cheering and chanting, I have started to lose my voice. Thankfully, I’ve also gained another voice, of sorts – the new leader of the Labour Party. A voice that will speak out for the millions who need to be heard in Parliament.
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