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12 July 2016

This heartfelt pro-Corbyn rally exposed some hard truths about Labour

The pro-Corbyn rally outside the NEC conference was something of a damp squib. 

By Rosie Collier

Given the thousands who turned up to Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum rally outside Parliament a few weeks ago, a similar protest taking place outside Southside promised to be exciting. Indeed, the stakes on this rainy Tuesday were even higher – Labour’s National Executive Committee were meeting to determine the terms of the leadership contest and whether Corbyn would automatically be included on the leadership ballot.

Yet the scene was rather bleak. Cameramen made up the majority of the crowd. The only protesters were a middle-aged couple, holding up a “Corbyn 50 years plus Supporters Group” sign – the only banner in sight. This couple told me: “[Corbyn] won’t be kept off the leadership. He’s been voted in by thousands of people and if they vote him off he’ll take legal action.”

But they seemed to be the only party members in sight.  The majority of people outside the building told me they were simply “passing by” wondering “what was going on” and had no attachment to the Labour party whatsoever.                                                                   

There was some commotion as Corbyn stepped out of his car.  Individuals started cheering and one girl screamed “I love you” – though she left as soon as Corbyn entered the building. It wasn’t clear as to whether she was a diehard Corbynite or an attention-seeking passer by.  Yet there was mostly silence.  

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Shoppers were bemused. 

Perhaps comparisons with the fire of a few weeks ago is unfair. Not everyone can make a midday rally at short notice, in the rain. But for those Corbyn supporters proclaiming they have the support of thousands of members, it was not a good omen.