JEREMY Corbyn got a rapturous rock star welcome to Redditch this afternoon – and he responded with a barn storming speech at the bandstand lapped up by the assembled throng, more than 500 strong.
At its heart was the Labour Party’s slogan ‘For the Many Not The Few’ as he painted a vision of a society that would thrive on the talents of its people.
“When we bring people together and share our ideas it makes us stronger,” he said.
“When we win the General Election we will offer people a future that is universal and optimistic – we have one million people on zero hours contracts in this country and we have those who work who have to depend on a food bank to survive – what does that say about Britain today?”
The Labour leader was in Redditch to support the party’s parliamentary candidate Rebecca Jenkins, who, after all the anticipation, was missing on the day after suffering a back injury.
However Mr Corbyn, who was running 30 minutes later after speaking elsewhere in the Midlands, said he had spoken to her that morning and urged everyone to back her in her bid to win the seat back again for Labour.
Indeed his 35 minute unscripted speech was high on power and passion, taking particular aim at Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to cut corporation tax – a tax paid by companies on profits – to the lowest in G20, saying instead that Labour would increase it to better fund education.
A major theme was investment in youth services “all society benefits from a well educated population” and a promise to treat those taking vocational training on an equal footing to those following academic studies.
There would also be more money for the NHS and social care and to warm applause he also said Labour would put an extra 10,000 police officers on the streets.
He also had strong words for anyone looking to blame minorities for any problems.
“In our diversity lies our strength, in our unity lies our strength and in our coming together lies our strength,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.
“I’m not comfortable living in a country where fellow citizens have nowhere to live and have to sleep rough.
“As a society we cannot afford the levels of injustice and inequality that we have today and improving that for everyone has massive resonance.
“We are ready and waiting for a General Election at anytime.”
THE Labour leader proved himself a natural dealing with the hundreds of well-wishers, posing for selfies and happy to chat and give autographs.
In an exclusive interview with Redditch Standard Editor Ross Crawford he also had a key message for local people, promising to invest in the Alexandra Hospital.
“I’ve been looking at the whole issue of the extreme distances people have to travel between Accident & Emergency departments in Redditch and Worcester and even across to Warwickshire,” he said.
“A Labour government would invest in the local A&E department here in Redditch to improve the facilities available to local people.”
He also took aim at the Strategic and Transformation Plan currently being introduced across Herefordshire and Worcestershire which will see millions cut from the NHS budget.
“I am totally against these STPs and we will abandon them when in government,” he said.
Mr Corbyn also posed for photograph with one local lad, Ethan Brown, who had written to him saying he would be voting Labour “because I like gardening like you’.
It proved the perfect icebreaker before he launched into the serious business of winning over the people of Redditch to Labour.
Demonstrating against Mr Corbyn were members of Justice4the21 campaigning for the men behind the Birmingham pub bombings to be named.
It was on November 24, 1974 that bombs ripped apart two Birmingham pubs, killing 21 innocent people.
Under the Good Friday Agreement the bombers cannot be prosecuted but Justice4the21 is calling for the perpetrators to be named.
Speaking on Monday a member of for the campaign group said: “We were there purely to demonstrate for justice, particularly with the case of the 21 being in the news at the moment and because of Corbyn’s links with the IRA.
“It was a peaceful demonstration – yes there was chanting but nothing else. We also demonstrated at the Tory party conference.”
Behind the bandstand an Israeli flag and Union Jack were also waved for a while before being moved on.
Note: In an earlier version of this story we were mistakenly informed that it was elements of the EDL who had been demonstrating at the rally.
We have since been informed that this was not the case and that it was in fact members of the campaign group Justice4the21.
We apologise for any distress and hurt this may have caused those present and the victims’ families.