A SOUTH SHIELDS DEFEND CORBYN MEETING organised by the Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group (H&WMBG) on 3rd August attracted 83 people. While there were party members and former party members re-invigorated because of Corbyn, the meeting attracted many new people prepared to join the Labour Party. It was the biggest political meeting in South Shields since the anti-Poll Tax campaign 26 years ago and, before that, the miners’ strike of 1984/85. The mood reflected hope that Corbyn would become the next Prime Minister and carry out socialist policies. On the other hand there was great anger aimed at Labour Party representatives locally and nationally. The 172 MPs who organised an abortive coup against Corbyn were branded as “traitors”, while local MP Emma Lewell-Buck came under fire for stabbing Corbyn in the back in the parliamentary vote of confidence and endorsing Owen Smith. As South Shields CLP has been suspended for a number of months, people questioned who Buck is accountable to and on what basis she is making her decisions.
Local councillors were also the focal point of discontent as they slavishly carry out Tory cuts, now hitting the most vulnerable. One of the speakers, Ed Waugh, a playwright speaking in a personal capacity, said: “For councillors who want to carry out cuts and inflict austerity on working class people there is a ready made party for them... the Tory Party.” John Watson, a miner for 23 years and secretary of H&WMBG, spoke about the need for democracy inside the Labour Party and the need for unity around Jeremy Corbyn and socialist policies.
The discussion from the floor was positive and wide reaching, ranging from the need to have democracy from the bottom up rather than from the top down to a poignant contribution from mother-of-one Emma Louise Cairns, who has a second child on the way. Emma explained the stresses of affording heating. “Sometimes the only room in the house I can afford to heat is my child’s,” she explained. Emma went on to say she supports Corbyn because he gives her and young people like her hope. It typified the mood of the attendees.
Summing up, John Watson said this was just the start of the campaign and called on everyone to join the Labour Party and to encourage their friends and family to transform Labour into a socialist, campaigning party we can be proud of. From the meeting, a group of young supporters have set up a Facebook page called South Tyneside Defends Jeremy Corbyn.