IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘I thought Corbyn chant was booing’

Labour leader reveals his surprise at crowd reaction – and how the election has changed politics

28 July, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘We’re in a very strong situation’

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that when he first heard the now-famous “Oooh Jeremy Corbyn” chant he feared he was being booed.

In his first interview with the Tribune since Labour gained 30 seats and registered the biggest-ever increase in the party vote since World War II in last month’s general election, the Islington North MP said he initially had serious doubts about speaking at a music festival, where the song first emerged.

The chant, set to The White Stripes’ 2003 hit Seven Nation Army, started in Birkenhead on a warm evening in late May. Mr Corbyn had been invited by the Libertines to speak before their gig at Wirrall Live, a music festival held at the Tranmere Rovers FC stadium.

“I said: ‘I’m not sure about this. People go to music festivals for a reason, and it’s not to listen to speeches. I’m really not sure this is going to work,’” Mr Corbyn revealed. “But I said: ‘I’ve been invited so I’m going.’ So I went there, got up on stage. I did my speech about music, football, culture and sport and as I got into it, there was a lot of chanting going on. But when you’re on stage, you can’t hear what the chanting is. The only thing you can do at a public meeting or event is get on with it.”

He added: “If you start responding to any hostile remarks, it gets worse. It’s a crowd psychology thing. I looked at the crowd and thought: ‘Get on with it, make your speech and get out. Bad day.’ And as I looked at the people who were chanting I realised they were all smiling. And if a guy is chanting and wearing a Corbyn T-shirt it’s probably OK. And it was. And then this whole thing sort of took off.”

Jeremy Corbyn supporters outside the Town Hall during his election campaign

Reflecting on Labour’s performance in the election, Mr Corbyn said: “I always felt there was a mood there, from day one of the campaign. And that grew because of the anti-austerity message we were giving, including with it tax rises. The turning point was the manifesto launch.

“All the commentariat wrote us off [but] I was determined to go out there with an absolute determination to take the fight to the Tories. And while we didn’t win the election we did have the biggest ever increase in the Labour vote since World War II. We gained seats, and things have changed.”

He added: “The broadcast rules changed and we had to have equality of airtime on radio and television. We also had a very effective social media campaign. My personal Twitter followers are now [totalling] 1.3 million. We had six million people access our manifesto online, which is amazing. That’s bigger than the readership of any newspaper.

“This election showed something quite remarkable about forms of communication.”

Supporters who were not even known to the party came forward. “People would just pop up, sending out stuff. And a lot of kids just got involved, which is nice.”

He has now embarked on a whirlwind tour of marginal Tory seats, which will continue over the summer as he makes his party election-ready in case Theresa May’s government falls.

Shadow cabinet ministers will fan out across the country in a bid to convince voters in up to 70 seats that Labour’s time has come. “The mood in Parliament is very different,” Mr Corbyn added. “It’s the Tories who are depressed and divided [and] it’s Labour which is essentially assertive on public and private sector pay, investment.

“We’re taking the fight to the Tories, and they’re busy avoiding debate and avoiding votes. And so we’re in a very strong situation.”

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