To the Pen Green Centre, Corby, to see Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. I had not heard of Pen Green, but it was set up in 1983 and the prototype on which the Children’s Centre network was based, created by Labour, vandalised and vitiated by the Tories. It teaches courses from the first introduction, preparing to work with children, to PhD level: Jacky tells me of a professor of midwifery (?) she knows who left school without qualifications but just kept going once she was encouraged. “It is better to put a fence at the top of the slope than spend money picking up the broken people at the bottom.”
Beth Miller, our candidate, introduced Mr Corbyn. She gets more and more confident, speaking spontaneously, working the crowd. He speaks of the Tory disaster of Northamptonshire County Council, bankrupted by Tory councillors cutting the council tax and contracting out services, with the problem exacerbated by the Tory government cutting the central grant, supported by the county’s Tory MPs.
Jeremy has been round 74 marginal constituencies, targets, this year, getting members involved. He says Labour would end the rote learning and stress on children and teachers, and develop children’s personality through art and music. Education should be a right not a commodity: they would increase corporate taxes for tertiary life-long learning. Labour would support the principle of the NHS against privatisation, looking after the whole person: suicide is the main killer of young men. We would have a proper plan for social care: it is a scandal when people cannot get a care place, so stay in a hospital bed. I note that he does not use the terse, coarse phrase “bed-blocking”. It is a waste when people, mostly women, give up their careers to look after relatives. Rough sleeping has doubled since 2010. He has spoken to rough sleepers, hearing their stories of job loss or relationship breakdown, it could happen to many of us. The empty investment properties in London are a scandal, he would build council houses.
He wants a gentler, kinder Britain. He knows the media is “unkind” to him, attacking because he is determined to change the country for the better.
He wants to hear our ideas for the council, and how we will suffer from the £70m cuts in services. I fear for British politics. With the former foreign secretary fomenting hate against Muslim women with mockery, and the Brexit secretary wanting to “unchain Britannia” by ending all workers’ rights or public services, making Margaret Thatcher look like Shirley Williams, my neighbour, who rents privately and whose son lives with her is concerned about the “benefit fraud”, all the people on the estate not working. He says he does not hear such arguments often. The way to get hope is through campaigning, such as the judicial review of the closure of the Corby Urgent Care Centre. Yes.
I need not ask him about trans: he, and many female Labour MPs, have said unequivocally “Trans women are women”.
I fiddle with my camera. “Would you like a photograph?” he asks. Of course I would. You can see how delighted I am. I get depressive about politics, and now feel much better.
I chatted to John Prescott’s son, who is going round with the leader.
Outside, in the warm but not blazing sunshine, a man plays a pan raga, a light, gentle sound.
I put that photo on facebook, and someone wrote, “Well, he looks like a nice guy. Are you going to see him again?” Alas, I did not give him my phone number, nor get his- but the photo has that vibe about it.