Exclusive: Labour to show "Against the Odds" film in election broadcast

Victory for blog campaign

The Labour Party has decided to adopt as its next election broadcast the well-received film used before Gordon Brown's conference speech, called Against the Odds, Newstatesman.com has learned.

The two-and-a-half-minute broadcast, praised as "moving" by Labour delegates and journalists alike, runs through a brief history of the labour movement's leading figures, from Keir Hardie to Gordon Brown.

It begins with the words "It's the fighters and believers who change our world", and goes on to say that although it was said the son of a miner could never become a minister, "no one told Nye Bevan", a reference to the working-class architect of the National Health Service. Later the film moves into images of Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Brown with the words: "So here's to the fighters."

The decision by Labour to capitalise on the film is a victory for bloggers, especially the student Ellie Gellard who has been leading the campaign to persuade Labour to adopt the film on her site, The Stilettoed Socialist. Party insiders say it is indicative of an enhanced listening process aimed at grassroots campaigning, including on the blogs.

Miss Gellard, who describes herself as a "Bevanite", has won the support of Alastair Campbell and Eddie Izzard in her attempts to have the film used as the next Party Election Broadcast (PEB).

The decision to go ahead was taken during a conference call on Friday afternoon and is likely to be formally announced later today.

Miss Gellard says on her blog: "In a blogosphere dominated by right wing, angry men, I feel a certain responsibility to counteract or merely dilute their poison with a different viewpoint."

 

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.