Friday, 19 August 2016

JC Rally

Meandering through the growing crowd, I catch snippets of all kinds of conversations…

I don’t care about Jeremy!  I don’t care about his scruffy suits, his shambling image, I’m not bothered about his campaign, his friends, his wife, his staff, his press officer, the MPs that want him to disappear into the mist, or his supporters who want him to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt – I just don’t give a fuck – I care about democracy, OK?
(I had been concerned I might have to write this thing myself, but it appears that the assembled throng would rather do it for me.)

From the hastily-erected stage, an MP demands:  “What kind of Socialist party charges people £25 to vote?”
The kind that isn’t a socialist party and hasn’t been for decades, presumably…

The Big Ticket Speaker, the reason we are all here, is speaking.  I hear a cheer, which I had assume to be in response to the last speaker finishing speaking and departing the stage….the BTS claims that this election not about personality because he is not a personality.  Not a novel approach, and very rarely a successful one, but only the true messiah denies his divinity, I suppose.

The bearded man on the hastily-erected lectern (is it the back of a truck?  I’m too far gone to see…) intones a mild sermon for the gathered believers.  The whole affair is designed (would “calculated” be too calculated a word?) to convince the world that this congregation, this constituency does indeed exist, is real and tangible and has a possibility of continued existence.  To convince itself, no less.

The speaker is heckled from the back of the stage by one of his acolytes – in a comradely fashion! – which prompts some boos for the heckler.  The grey hand stills the immature badwill, claiming it to be not in his name.  Some student type behind me scolds my honest reaction, describing the booing as ironic.

From somewhere behind me, I hear an air horn.  I spin around to see a small cluster of grinning, moronic faces.  They be the babbers, I’d say….having always enjoyed heckling a heckler, I stand intimidatingly close, looking askance at the offenders:  Explain yourself!  Is that an ironic air horn?  Are you trying to turn this august gathering into a fucking circus?!
They regard me as an interloper and splutter that it’s just a bit of fun.  I move on, wary of unsettling them further – I’m not here to get arrested.

What’s the worst thing to monger, I wonder out loud – fish?  War?Kye Dudd's speeches too, which were absolutely on point and getting strong support from a crowd larger than I have seen at any other political event in Bristol ever before. College green was packed with thousands of supporters, giving round after round of applause.Even the bus driver on my down town was asking people as they got on the bus "You going to the Corbyn rally"? Sure enough, JC referenced the bristol bus boycott, and local legend Paul Stephenson OBE in a rousing speech to the crowd. I have to say, I was impressed. It ranked up there with the late Tony Benn's speech a few months prior to his death at St George's Hall, Concert Hall, Bristol in my humble opinion. .  Scare? – before realising I am alone in a crowd.  Unabashed, I ask again, louder.  Anxious-looking white people shield their children from me and scuttle away, mumbling curses to their families.  This.  This is the problem, I say out loud, to their quivering backs.  If these delicate flowers can’t handle me, in a relatively good humour, how can they possibly hope to face down fascists?  Or re-order the Organised Left?  Or ever leave their houses again?

As I mooch around the edge of the Green, a gaggle of protest-protestors, or counter-demonstrators, hurl insults at passers-by:  You scumbag entryist!  Trostkyite! Agent Provocateur!  Infiltrator!  Some of the people they shout at appear to be merely bewildered teatime shoppers, oblivious to the gathering political storm.

I try to reason with the centre-right brutes, but the bright, clashing colours of their chinos catches my attention and I giggle uncontrollably for seven or eight minutes before leaving them to their fun.  Let the baby have his bottle, I say.

Cripes, this crowd is turning ugly.  I mean, uglier.  Don’t these people understand?  I’m a journalist… 

As every uncontroversial and entirely sensible assertion from the podium is delivered as a rallying cry and lauded like the word of god by the baying crowd, I stumble away from the resulting affray, and hear strains of the dulcet tones of Bob Marley.  Oh, for fuck sakes…there is some enthusiasm here, and less bullshit than might have been expected, but surely only the most naively optimistic could possibly believe that everything’s gonna be alright…no community left behind…fight them on the beaches…Fools!  I scream, addressing a mostly imagined audience, they want you to hope!  They love your hope, they feed on it!  Make the cages bigger and the chains longer – but never set them free!  These Trots will ruin us all!  Today the Student Union – tomorrow the PLP!  Run, you fools!  Run for your lives!  My crazed laughter attracts the attention of some plain-clothes cops (you can always spot them by their casual attire), so a tactical retreat seems appropriate.  He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day…



Looking back at my notes, the day after the rally, I wonder if this was what was going on in my head, or if it really happened in the manner described above.  It really could be either.  Perhaps it was not the crowd turning uglier….it really could be either.

Anyway, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was pretty good, if I remember right.

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