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The Day Jeremy Corbyn came to town

By Nigel Pauley
Huntingdon CLP Political Education Officer / Press Officer

Huntingdon hadn’t seen anything like it since Harold Wilson nearly came here in 1964 (the nearest he got was Cambridge).
For the first time in half a century a leading Labour politician was visiting the Conservative heartland - John Major’s old constituency to boot!

And it wasn’t just any old senior Labour politician - but “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” himself. The Labour leader - who has galvanised the party - was the star speaker at Labour’s East of England Conference...

It is a sign of the times that the event was held in a place like Huntingdon and that the local Huntingdon CLP has seen its membership surge from just over 100 a couple of years ago to touching 900 now.
Yes, the Corbyn Effect isn’t only being felt in marginals and so called “winnable”, seats but places like Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots... once seen as being bluer than a Jim Davidson joke.
In anticipation of witnessing an event almost as rare as England winning the World Cup, several hundred committed local Labour supporters wrapped up against the chill wind and set up camp outside the Marriott Hotel, just up from the notorious Spittals A14 interchange and a stone’s throw from Mr Major’s home.

And after, literally, several hours outside in the cold, how those committed supporters were pleased they wrapped up!
Three hours, slowly, coldly became four hours and then beyond, but finally for those die-hards that had managed to stick it out, their long wait was rewarded. Jeremy came out, posed for endless photos, signed autographs, chatted, laughed and joked.
As one person remarked - the smile lines on his face show that he is man who enjoys laughter and has a sense of humour.

Suddenly, in those precious moments, the reason the “Corbyn Effect” has been such a phenomenon became clear.
This is a man totally at ease with the ordinary Labour voter, who clearly loves mingling with them, chatting to them and being a regular guy. Just like them.
You can never, ever imagine, like some other hapless politicians, Jeremy having a slip of the tongue and, forgetting his microphone is still on, accuse an elderly woman of being a bigot. He has too much respect for his public than that. He really is a man of the people.

Just as the late Princess Diana was the “people’s princess” - Jeremy is the “people’s champion.”
In fact, he stayed so long chatting to the public outside the Marriott that he missed his train back to London.

Earlier, I’d been lucky enough to be inside the conference and watch Corbyn’s speech to the 300-delegates.
I must say that he received the longest standing ovation I have ever seen - or heard - BEFORE starting his speech! I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d heard he was a better orator than sometimes appeared on TV and in the House - but had my doubts.
However, I was blown away by how good he was - a perfectly paced 45-minute speech, building towards a dramatic finish.
He was witty, funny and totally at ease. Not only that, he has an aura around him - hard to pin-point but it is a mixture of warmth, calm, humour and empathy.
Corbyn said there were now no safe seats for the Conservatives and that every seat was winnable.
Hopefully, what he witnessed in Huntingdon, will re-enforce that view point. It certainly re-enforced ours!
Let’s hope some others in the party also recognise the sea-change that has occurred in constituencies like Huntingdon, and give us the support and help to enable us to defeat our lame-duck MP next time out.

“Oh Jeremy Corbyn.” You were brilliant. Thanks for visiting us and making our day! Do come back again soon!

Nigel Pauley

© Nigel Pauley 2017

Promoted by Mick White, of 11 Parkside, St Ives, PE27 5QJ, on behalf of the St Ives Labour Party, of the same address.