Next door to Peterborough United’s ABAX Stadium Jeremy Corbyn was received with the adulation of a football hero as he dropped in to address Labour members.
But while the party leader delighted his faithful followers with a speech and short Q&A at the Allia Future Business Centre this afternoon (Friday, May 19), it was a case of ‘for the few, not the many’ when it came to addressing the local media, as Mr Corbyn declined to speak to the Peterborough Telegraph, but he did sit down with regional broadcasters only.
The Labour leader appeared very much at ease in front of his supporters, cracking the odd joke at the expense of the Conservatives, and he enthusiastically promoted the party’s candidate for the Peterborough constituency, Fiona Onasanya, who joined him on stage during the talk.
However, the event was being held in the North West Cambridgeshire constituency, and the party’s candidate for the seat, Iain Ramsbottom, was not invited onto th stage despite being present.
Mr Corbyn told the audience: “This is our manifesto, and this is our chance. Our party membership is bigger than it’s ever been, our activity on the doorstep is more than it’s ever been.
“The understanding of the choice in this election is more profound than it’s ever been.”
Referring to Ms Onasanya, he added: I urge all of you, do everything you possibly can to get this wonderful woman elected as the MP.”
Mr Corbyn entered the room to a standing ovation and was mobbed by supporters at the end.
During his 25 minutes talking he largely discussed health and education, promising to fund mental health provision, the winter fuel allowance for elderly people, the triple lock for pensions - which guarantees that it rises the highest of average earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent - and free school meals for primary school pupils.
There was also the odd quip about the Conservatives; referring to the launch of the party’s manifesto, which Prime Minister Theresa May labelled ‘her’ manifesto, he said: “You might have noticed yesterday, another party published a manifesto. I say another party, because apparently the leader of that party does not like repeating its name.
“It would be completely wrong of me to intrude on private grief.”
Making his rallying cry to the Labour members, he added: “Are we going to go down the road of ever reducing expenditure on vital public services, an ever-widening gap between the richest and the poorest, and ever biggest tax giveaways for the biggest corporations and the wealthiest in our society?
“Or are we going to do something different which is outlined in what I believe to be our excellent manifesto for the many, not the few.”
Ending the meeting, he added: “This election is a choice - the Labour way of working for the good of the entire community, or the other side’s way, which is perpetuating the grotesque levels of inequality which already exists in our society.”
Speaking to the PT after the event, which was the second time Mr Corbyn has visited Peterborough in his time as Labour leader, Celia Emery (53) of St Neots said: “I thought he was amazing. He’s a genuine, decent guy. I’ve got two disabled kids and that’s the main reason I joined the Labour Party. I’m fed up of the bashing of the vulnerable.”
Mike Fowler (67) of Eastfield, said: “Jeremy was very positive. He knows what needs to be done in this country and he has the team to do it.
“We need to put that team into the position to do it, otherwise we will be washed up down the river and it’s going to be pretty rough.”
Conservative candidate for Peterborough Stewart Jackson responded to the news that Mr Corbyn would not speak to the PT by tweeting: “Are you surprised? Corbyn only wants to meet Momentum cultists not the voters of NW Cambs!”
Momentum is a left-wing organisation which supports the Labour Party.