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Curry Nights With Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, attending a 'Refugees Welcome Here' rally on the day of his election as leader. Photo credit: RonF, Flickr.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, attending a ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ rally on the day of his election as leader.
Photo credit: RonF, Flickr

Berkeley Squares was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket to a fundraising dinner for Marvin Rees, Labour’s candidate in the 2016 mayoral election. On the night, over 200 Labour party members gathered in the Trinity Centre for a £25-a-plate curry dinner to help raise funds. Attendees included Karin Smyth MP (Bristol South), Kerry McCarthy MP (Bristol East and Shadow DEFRA), Baroness Dawn Primarolo (former Bristol South MP, now sits in House of Lords), Darren Jones (candidate for Bristol North West, finished second), Iain McNicol (Labour’s General Secretary), Rees himself, who was at the door greeting guests and of course our Political Editor. Corbyn arrived later, after most people had already taken their seats, and received a standing ovation just for entering the room.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) is applauded as he enters the Trinity Centre. Labour's mayoral candidate Marvin Rees (R) holds open the door. Photo: Iain Walker
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) is applauded as he enters the Trinity Centre. Labour’s mayoral candidate Marvin Rees (R) holds open the door.
Photo: Iain Walker

Then came the curry. The cooks had underestimated the number of vegetarians and vegans in the Labour party, somewhat ironic considering that Corbyn himself doesn’t eat meat. Once everyone had finished, Karin Smyth made the first speech. She praised Mr Rees, exclaiming that ‘Bristol ran through [his] veins’. Rees stood up next, delivering a pitch on the theme of opportunity.

Finally, it was Corbyn’s turn to address the room. He began with a long list of thanks to those involved in organising the dinner, before treating the guests to a rendition of Happy Birthday. ‘‘You see, that proves I can sing,’’ he remarked, surprising the audience with a sense of humour, after many had criticised him (perhaps unfairly) for lacking one, including bestselling author Martin Amis (‘‘the humourless man is a joke’’). What followed was a fairly standard Corbyn speech, as he described his vision for the future and spoke about ‘the new politics’ he had promised in his leadership campaign. It went down well with the members – even one Kendallite I spoke to was impressed. I suppose, to adapt a famous but unattributable quote, ‘‘we’re all Corbynistas now’’.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to his supporters at the fundraising dinner. Photo: Iain Walker
Jeremy Corbyn speaks to his supporters at the fundraising dinner.
Photo: Iain Walker

But, looking around the room at the rapturous applause Corbyn received every few minutes, one wouldn’t have guessed that Labour had just endured what commentators have described as the party’s ‘worst week ever’. Nor would one have suspected that the Conservatives now command a 15-point lead over Labour according to one poll, or that the gulf between Labour party MPs and members continues to widen each day. The fact that this wasn’t reflected in the room isn’t surprising however, considering that a poll by The Times/YouGov suggests that two thirds of Labour members think Corbyn is doing a good job (compared to his -28% net favourability rating among the British public at large).

After that, and a ‘socialist raffle’ (I’m not going to explain that one), the night was over, and guests crowded around Corbyn hoping to snap a selfie. With happy, well-fed members and plenty of cash in the campaign fund, I imagine it was a successful evening for all involved.

Latest odds on 2016 Mayoral Election
CandidateOdds
George Ferguson (Bristol 1st)1/2
Marvin Rees (Labour)2/1
Charles Lucas (Conservative)16/1
Tony Dyer (Green)50/1
Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat)100/1
Laurence Duncan (Independent)100/1
Don’t understand odds? See here.
Source: Ladbrokes, as of 27 November 2015