“Never give up that hope, that belief that life can & should get better with every passing generation.”Rebecca Long Bailey MP
Over the next week on Labour Outlook we’re having a grassroots take over backing #RLB2020. Below we publish a report from Peter Leary (Momentum Oxford) on her event there on Monday:
Labour leadership candidate, Rebecca Long Bailey received a powerful welcome at Blackbird Leys Community Centre in Oxford on Monday 27 January where she addressed a packed meeting of activists. Despite being called at short notice, the hall was filled to bursting. One local member who saw that all of the seats were filled, went home and returned with several chairs but still people lined the back and sides and crowded into every corner of the room to hear the speakers. Organisers estimated that close to 300 members were in attendance.
The meeting began sombrely with a minute’s silence to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, followed by a rousing speech from Ian Hodson of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). Hodson emphasised the need for party unity to fight the Tories, and highlighted the solidarity demonstrated by Long-Bailey for striking BFAWU members. It was for this support, he told the audience, that his union was very happy to reciprocate in its decision to nominate her for party leadership.
Other speakers included Michaela Collord of the Oxford for a Green New Deal campaign and Oxford City Councillor, NHS doctor, and Oxford Migrant Champion, Hosnieh Djafari Marbini. Collord spoke of the personal warmth and empathy that the candidate had shown to grassroots activists. Marbini, highlighting that she herself had come to Britain from Iran, ‘one of only three countries in the world with unelected clerics in the upper chamber’ said how proud she was to be supporting a woman who was ‘committed to reducing that number down to two.’ As with Jeremy Corbyn, Long-Bailey’s commitment to progressive internationalism was an inspiration, especially to members from migrant backgrounds and BAME communities.
Introducing Rebecca Long Bailey, local party member and City Council candidate for the Blackbird Leys ward, Diko Blackings, who chaired the evening alongside Oxford and District Labour Party Trade Union Officer, Mark Ladbrooke (personal capacity), said how honoured she was to welcome her to the area; ‘my ends.’ Despite Oxford’s association with ‘dreaming spires’ and the infamous Bullingdon Club, the meeting heard how life expectancy in parts of the Leys is up to fifteen years lower than in affluent parts of North Oxford just a couple of miles away, while issues including homelessness, low wages, and high housing costs persist throughout the city.
In a thoughtful, detailed and often humorous pitch, Long Bailey spoke of her own devastation at the recent election result, a sentiment widely shared by those in attendance. She talked about the challenge posed by Brexit, its dominance as in issue in the campaign, and the fact that Labour’s attempt to find a compromise position clearly did not work as well as it had to. She spoke passionately about her plans for a Green New Deal and its potential to unite all of Labour’s new and traditional heartlands by creating well-paid jobs through the investment necessary to address the urgent dangers of the climate crises. Central to all of this was putting power into people’s hands, ‘by democratising politics, the economy, and our party.’ Many were visibly moved when she spoke of her own childhood – of her Irish immigrant and trade unionist parents and their influence on her, but above all about the sense of optimism that she had felt imagining a future transformed by science and new technology. ‘Never give up that hope, that belief that life can and should get better with every passing generation,’ she told the audience. When she finished the large crowd overwhelmingly gave her a standing ovation.
First to respond was Sam Smith, representing the Unite BMW branch at the MINI plant in Cowley, who conveyed the strong support of her union for Rebecca’s leadership campaign after which, Long Bailey fielded questions from local delegations of the Communication Workers Union and Fire Brigades Union, NHS and education activists, and the Oxford campaign for justice for Windrush generation migrants.
Oxford Labour members now look forward to their nomination meetings to be held of 3 February (Oxford East) and 6 February (Oxford West and Abingdon) and to supporting Rebecca Long-Bailey’s ongoing campaign.