Peter Chowney

Hastings united for Jeremy

Peter Chowney

LAST MONTH, HASTINGS AND RYE LABOUR PARTY agreed to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as our leadership candidate. And the meeting at which that happened could not have been further from the unruly, intimidating, affair that the press, and elements of the Labour Party hierarchy, are so keen to report.

It was a hot evening in a community centre that we don't usually use, chosen because the numbers expected to turn up were too big for our usual venues. Even so, there was standing room only, with around 70 party members turning up. The chair ruled that only GC delegates would be allowed to speak (and vote), but every delegate present would be invited to speak, for no more than a minute each. The debate that ensued was polite, dignified and well mannered.

There was plenty of passion in the short speeches, but no hint of a heckle or interruption, whichever candidate speakers supported, beyond a little scattered applause for some of the speakers.

A secret ballot followed, the result of which was 33 votes for Jeremy Corbyn, three votes for Owen Smith, and one abstention. When this was announced, there was a round of polite applause, and everyone went quietly home. And yet we, like all other Labour Party constituencies, are not allowed to hold normal meetings until October, because we can't be trusted to keep order and avoid terrorising our members - so all the issues we need to discuss, about council policy for example, can't proceed.

Although we have not debated the party leadership among the 24-strong Labour Group, around two thirds of our Labour councillors are supporting Jeremy too. But again, there has been no resentment from either 'side', not between Labour councillors, nor between councillors and party members.

The level of support for Jeremy in Hastings & Rye wasn't surprising - membership of the Party has trebled over the last year. If Jeremy is re-elected, we will need to convert that enthusiasm into old-fashioned grass roots activism, to campaign for a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. To do that, we need to be united. And Hastings has demonstrated that it can achieve that.