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  1. Election 2024
30 May 2024

Does Jeremy Corbyn inspire enough loyalty to win Islington North?

The former Labour leader’s launch as an independent last night showed he has plenty of local support.

By Freddie Hayward

As Diane Abbott stood outside Hackney Town Hall to declare she would stand whatever the party decided, and as Lloyd Russell-Moyle received word that an eight-year old complaint, which he could not challenge in time, meant he would be barred from standing, Jeremy Corbyn belatedly appeared in a small red-brick community centre, green suit falling off his shoulders, shirt untucked, in Islington North to launch his campaign to be the area’s independent MP.

Corbyn was a few steps ahead of his fallen comrades. He announced his much-predicted independent candidacy last Friday before being immediately expelled from the party. The posters at his launch were still Labour-red, but there were splashes of green and a promise to be an “independent voice for all of us” in the constituency he has represented for more than 40 years.

The crowd was elderly, filled with veteran activists for whom this was another campaign in a long line. One woman next to me, who’d known Corbyn since he was on Haringey Council in the Seventies and early Eighties and left Labour over Michael Foot’s support for the Falklands War, said: “There’s loyalty here, we’ll totter out on our Zimmer frames [to support him]… I hope he’s got good advisers who help tap into the young people.”

Before Corbyn spoke, community leaders – an NHS doctor, the general secretary of the Finsbury Park mosque, someone from the Jewish Socialists’ Group – recounted times when he visited the mosque, campaigned for Whittington Hospital A&E and the number 4 bus that takes you there, and saved leafleteers from overbearing British Transport Police. “An MP who knows always whose side he’s on,” one said.

Corbyn started his speech – he was introduced as “our trusted, resourceful and very nice MP” – by leading a round of “Happy Birthday” as a candle-laden cake appeared from the wings for his election agent. Meanwhile, memes were ricocheting around Twitter comparing the purge of the left to the Night of the Long Knives.

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But Corbyn seemed happy. He called for a national care service, an end to wars and the two-child benefit cap, rent controls and referred to water company bosses as parasites. He rattled through the policies, conscious of the late start, without his trademark rousing delivery. It was like most speeches he delivered as Labour leader, except this time he was campaigning to win over one constituency, not 650. He was at a community centre, not Glastonbury. Those in the room have been doing this for 40 years.

Corbyn had reason to be more cheerful than his fellow purgees. Abbott seemed to be suggesting that if the National Executive Committee did not approve her candidacy she would stand as an independent. She would face a much harder fight than Corbyn. As I wrote on Monday, Corbyn can attract a lot of supporters to knock on doors over the next five weeks. His team claims a lorry driver came from Hull on Saturday to canvass for him. It’s one person, sure. But Corbyn undoubtedly inspires a unique level of loyalty – perhaps enough to win. If he does, he might be the only comrade left.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

[See also: What could go wrong for Labour?]

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