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Hundreds turn out for raucous Corbyn homecoming rally at Union Chapel

Leader said Labour represents the 'new centre ground of politics' hours before polls opened

08 June, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

JEREMY Corbyn ended his seven-week election campaign with a raucous rally at Union Chapel last night (Wednesday).

The Gothic-style church and arts venue in Upper Street was where the Labour leader delivered his final speech – it was his sixth rally of the day and 90th of the campaign – in a carnivalesque atmosphere remindful of the massive meetings of his 2015 leadership election campaign.

Hundreds of people who could not get in rallied outside, shouting “Tories out” and singing Mr Corbyn’s name. The crowd remained huge until well after 11pm.

Inside the chapel, Emily Thornberry, the Labour candidate for Islington South and Finsbury, took on the role of warm-up act.

She mocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s “strong and stable” slogan, adding: “You will not drain the health out of our national health service, you will not drain the life out of our schools, you will not privatise the land that our hospitals stand on. We say no.”

Ms Thornberry admitted many in the church would think Mr Corbyn was the “star of the campaign” but for her it was the Labour manifesto, she said.

She then introduced Mr Corbyn as “the next prime minister”. The Labour leader was unable to speak for several minutes because of the raucousness of the crowd.

His face beaming, Mr Corbyn eventually spoke about a campaign that symbolised “hope”. “Hope that it does not have to be like this,” he said. “That inequality can be tackled. That austerity can be ended. That you can stand up to the elites and the cynics.”

Mr Corbyn said Labour’s campaign had been a success, adding the party and its members and supporters had shifted politics to the left.

“This is new centre ground of politics, not what the establishment and their mouthpieces want – this is the new mainstream,” he said.

“We’re not the party of the billionaires, we’re not the party of the corporate elite – we’re the party of the people. And in the last few days we’ve had an incredible amount of support from people.”

Mr Corbyn had held his first rally at 8am in Glasgow’s Buchannan Street, before travelling by train to other parts of the country, including Wales, before coming home to Islington.

Many in the church had high expectations for a hung parliament tomorrow morning, but while the polls have narrowed, they still suggest a Tory majority.

This morning, Mr Corbyn cast his vote at Pakeman Primary School in Finsbury Park, where a large contingent of photographers and reporters awaited him.

Asked by one reporter whether he would resign if Labour lost the election, Mr Corbyn replied by thanking members of the press for coming to his polling station, adding he was “very proud” of the party’s campaign.

Polling stations will be open until 10pm. Votes will be counted at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Finsbury Park, where the results of both Islington constituencies are expected to be declared between 2am and 3am.

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