Momentum’s ideas ‘absolutely essential’, says Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour leader made an unexpected speech and received a rapturous applause from activists

Ashley Cowburn
Sunday 25 September 2016 17:11 BST
Jeremy Corbyn won a leadership contest on Saturday with 62 per cent of the vote
Jeremy Corbyn won a leadership contest on Saturday with 62 per cent of the vote (Reuters)

Ideas put forward by Momentum, the grassroots campaign set up to build on Jeremy Corbyn's victory, are “absolutely essential”, the Labour leader has said.

In a surprise speech at Momentum’s festival – “The World Transformed” – Mr Corbyn, who on Saturday beat his rival in the leadership contest with 62 per cent of the vote, thanked activists for their “significant” contribution to his campaign.

The Momentum event in Liverpool, which is happening at the same time as Labour’s annual conference, aims to “promote a radical, positive vision for the future” and includes four days of workshops, exhibitions, gigs, poetry and discussions about Mr Corbyn’s next steps.

Holding a copy of The World Transformed schedule of events, the Labour leader said: “This event here might be described as some kind of fringe extreme ... I see the kind of discussions that are in this programme here absolutely central and mainstream to how people think and what we're trying to do.”

He described this leadership election as “different” because it was a “challenge” and “we had to have a leadership election we hadn’t necessary planned for”.

“But what’s been fascinating is the number of people that have attended leadership campaign events… the total attendance was tens of thousands at all of the rallies and that was to me something highly significant,” he said to rapturous applause.

“People don't want politics that is top-down decision-making, they don’t want to be told there is no economic alternative. What’s exciting about politics at the moment is that after the general election we decided many of us – well not very many of us, a small group of us in Parliament decided – there had to be an alternative offered to austerity light and acceptance, in a sense, of the economic agenda that has been laid down in for the last 30 years in Western Europe and the United States.

“The reason I was put forward for leadership last year was to challenge the economic agenda of the times and what was amazing and interesting was the huge support and resonance there was for that alternative,” Mr Corbyn said.

Shortly after Mr Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader on Saturday, Momentum held a celebration which was attended, according to one source, “by half the shadow Cabinet”. Activists, it was added, heard from the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and Labour MPs, Dawn Butler, Clive Lewis, Emily Thornberry and Kate Osamor – an indication of how crucial Momentum is viewed by the Labour leader’s inner-circle.

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