Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivered a public speech outside the Leamington Town Hall as part of his 2017 General Election campaign yesterday afternoon.
Some 300 people, including a significant number of students, attended the rally. They kept in high spirits despite Mr Corbyn arriving 30 minutes late, following a stop in Worcester.
The 20-minute address challenged the government’s austerity policies on the NHS, schooling and housing, all of which have seen significant cuts in the area. Giving some insight into what will be in the Labour manifesto, which is due shortly, Mr Corbyn cited homelessness as a “number one priority,” adding that inequality was “at one of the highest levels in all of history.”
He expressed Labour’s intentions to invest in public services, including education, free school meals, pensions, the NHS and mental health provisions. While he mentioned “tariff-free trade access,” Brexit, immigration and tuition fees were notably absent from his speech.
The Leamington and Warwick constituency is currently a Conservative hold, with the sitting MP Chris White possessing a majority of just under 7,000; Labour would need a 6.5% swing to win it back for the first time since 2010.
However, the Labour leader was keen to stress to the crowd that the election was far from a foregone conclusion, adding humorously that his odds were once “200 to one to be leader of the Labour Party”.
He added that, if elected, he would invest significantly more in regions outside of the capital, especially the Midlands and the North of England.
Using the opportunity to to raise awareness around the stigma surrounding male mental health, Corbyn highlighted that the issue affects a quarter of adult males and urged for a shift in societal attitudes, besides pledging additional funding.
Mr Corbyn also used the speech to express his support for Labour Councillor Matt Western, who was reelected to his seat of Leamington Willes last Thursday and is now challenging Mr White to become MP of Warwick and Leamington in the coming election.
Labour Party member George Bailey said that there was a “good atmosphere,” while Claire Ingman, a first-year Philosophy and Literature student, commented that Mr Corbyn “got to the heart of millennial anxiety” when it came to the economy.
On the other hand, many expressed reservations at Mr Corbyn’s lack of emphasis on Brexit. While Chloe Etheridge, a History student, said that she personally enjoyed the speech, the added My Corbyn “was not going to win the election” unless he increased his focus on the issue.
Others expressed disagreement with the Labour leader’s preferred football team, holding up the sign “Wenger Out” behind the candidate as he began his speech.