Thursday, 25 August 2016

Joining Oxford Trades Union Council for a Public Meeting of Support for Jeremy Corbyn

Organiser: Oxford & District Trades Union Council
Venue & Date/Time: Wesley Memorial Church Hall, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford; 25 August 2015, 19.00-21.00
Panelists at the Pro-Corbyn Public Meeting

  • Barry Faulkner (UNITE Political Education Coordinator)
  • Caroline Glendenning (UNISON Oxford City Branch Secretary)
  • Cllr Claudia Webbe (Islington councillor & Labour Party NEC member)
In the immediate aftermath of the mass shadow cabinet resignations in June 2016, the Oxford & District Trades Union Council decided to organise a public meeting of support for Jeremy Corbyn MP – an event which gained greater importance following Owen Smith MP’s challenge to Jeremy’s Labour Party leadership. On this day that ballot papers for the leadership contest arrived in the post of Labour Party members, a strong endorsement for Jeremy was offered by the Oxford Labour movement. John Partington of the Reading Trades Union Council and TSSA attended the event, bringing fraternal greetings up the Thames Valley from the Reading trade union movement.

Barry Faulkner of UNITE

The first podium speaker was Barry Faulkner of UNITE. Barry focussed on the return of the Labour Party under Jeremy to the kind of politics which drew him into the party in 1978; a grassroots movement which promotes socialism and offers an alternative to Conservative cuts. In place of austerity, Jeremy is proposing the government invest to prosper. In place of privatised railways and a creeping privatisation of the NHS, Jeremy proposes nationalisations and a health service and railway industry as public services. Richard Branson’s recent attacks on Jeremy following the latter’s exposé of overfull Virgin trains at exorbitant prices has received a backlash from disgruntled passengers across the rail network who suffer such journeys on a daily basis. Far from challenging Jeremy’s claim, Branson simply revealed his own fear of nationalisation and a loss of his cash-cow: privatised rail.

Caroline Glendenning of UNISON

The second speaker was Caroline Glendenning of UNISON. Caroline recounted her journey from workplace operative with the Royal Mail to union membership and activism to – most recently – Labour Party membership. While Conservative attacks on workers drew her into the trade union movement, it was Jeremy’s breath of fresh air as newly elected party leader in 2015 which encouraged her to become active in the Labour Party. Caroline gave voice to those on zero hours contracts, such as care assistants, who travel long spells of time between clients, pay for their own travel and only get paid per home visit. A five or six hour shift might only result in two hours’ payment. She also highlighted the wait for council housing in Oxford, the cuts to maintenance allowances for disabled persons and their carers and the outsourcing of services by local authorities. Jeremy is railing against these moves and Caroline is working for Jeremy to save public services and ensure affordable councils houses are once again built.

Cllr Claudia Webbe of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee
The last speaker was Islington councillor, Claudia Webbe, a newly-elected member of Labour’s governing NEC. Claudia expressed concern at the amount of suspended or excluded Labour Party members, some prevented from joining the party for Tweets or other comments – largely innocuous – which they made years before when the Labour Party did not represent their views, and others suspended from the party from as long ago as 2008! She promised a transparent process for reviewing membership applications and offered a welcoming party which thrives on grassroots activism. Claudia thanked the hundreds of thousands of new Labour Party members for joining – making Labour the largest political party in Europe – but appealed to party members to get and remain active.
Following the speakers, forty-five minutes of questions and comments were taken from the floor. The evening could have gone on beyond the 21.00 closure – and indeed it did overrun by about ten minutes – but in fairness to the venue’s staff, the evening was drawn to a close. In an expression of fraternal solidarity from the Reading Trades Union Council, John Partington invited Labour and trade union supporters in Oxford to join the pro-Jeremy ‘barnstorming’ event on 31 August at the Reading International Solidarity Centre, London Street, Reading, from 20.00-22.00.
John Partington of Reading Trades Union Council and TSSA