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Corbyn keeps his shirt on in Poldark country

September 11th, 2017

Video: Footage of Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Redruth last month.

We all know that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t need to take his shirt off to get people singing “Ooo”. So the Labour leader was fully clad when he fetched up in Poldark country for Labour campaign rally in high summer. If he’d shown any inclination to emulate Aidan Turner’s naked sea bathing and shirtless gardening  in the BBC period drama his minders would doubtless have warned him against validating Theresa May’s bizarre comment in the General Election about “Jeremy Corbyn going alone and naked” into Brexit negotiations.

I was in Camborne because the number 39A bus from Penzance went straight past the door of our B&B. So, while the rest of the family got on with swimming and surfing, I set off to check up on Jeremy Corbyn’s “summer-campaigning blitz” in scores of Tory-held marginals.

His events team had found him a dramatic backdrop which had links to Poldark. The chimney and winding gear of a former tin and copper mine is part of the Heartlands venue  which has Unesco World Heritage Site status because of the historical importance of Cornish mining and miners, as a museum displays explains. “At one time, when tin was the most wanted metal on Earth, Cornwall and its miners ruled the world …. they’ve taught many a miner how to drill miles underground and out to sea. In short, they changed the course of engineering and mining history.”

The two and a half thousand who turned up in the sunshine to the open air rally were told by the leader he wished he’d campaigned in Cornwall in the General Election. He’ll undoubtedly be back next time.  Even without a sprinkling of  the help of Corbyn charisma the Cornish Labour registered some striking advances.

In Camborne and Redruth they pushed their vote up by nearly 20 per cent, leapfrogging the Lib Dems, and coming within 1,600 votes of gaining the Tory seat. It’s in the top thirty Labour targets needing a swing of less than 2 per cent. In neighbouring Truro and Falmouth the Labour vote shot up by 12,000, a 22% increase, making the Tories vulnerable to a swing of around 4 %. At the Camborne rally, Corbyn flanked by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, laid in to Tory failures in the NHS. Earlier he’d visted a hospital that is struggling to recruit staff.

Back at Westminster after his summer on the road the Labour leader is committed to a broad programme of policy development. This week he will give his backing to a significant development which has been drawn up by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and the chair of Labour Business, Hamish Sandison.

Corbyn will urge all CLPs to appoint Business Liaison Officers in parallel with existing Trade Union Liaison Officers. He is likely to recall the key statement in Labour’s manifesto: “Labour understands that wealth creation is a collective endeavour – between workers, entrepreneurs, investors, and government. Each contributes and each must share fairly in the rewards.”

The aim, in the words of Hamish Sandison, is to show that “Labour is the natural party of business”  Labour Business is affiliated to the party as a socialist society and in a Huffington Post article the chair argued: “We are the country’s largest political party, with more than half a million members, and we almost certainly have more business people in our ranks than any other political party in Britain. Our members own or run small businesses, work in medium and large sized companies, and hold senior management positions throughout the business community.”

I believe this is a significant initiative. Demonstrating that the Tories have failed on the economy is important but it’s not enough. Labour have to show they can make the country better off — and how. A strategic partnership with businesses of all sizes is a vital part of that.

Don Brind