LABOUR launched a groundbreaking grassroots campaign for radical change over the weekend, in readiness to take on the Tories in a general election.
The Labour Roots project, which opened in Leeds on Saturday, will give half a million party members, and the public, the chance to have their say on a future Labour government’s commitment to tackling key issues including the NHS, public services, education, housing, the environment and the rise of the far right.
Saturday’s launch involved hundreds of party members, community and campaign groups at packed events across the city, culminating in a rally at Leeds University’s students’ union building attended by trade union activists, campaigners and students.
Jeremy Corbyn told a rally that he was not interested in Tory squabbling over which of their candidates would be their next leader.
“Let them get on with it,” the Labour leader said. “I’m not very interested. I’m interested in the alternative that we will put forward.
“Austerity has left us with the most economically divided country in Europe, where the wealthiest minority has seen its wealth grow by £50 billion in the last year, while people are freezing on the streets.”
He was cheered by the packed hall when he repeated Labour’s pledge to end university fees and “the horrors of the debt that goes with it.”
Mr Corbyn added: “When Theresa May told us, when she stood on the steps of Downing Street, she was there to tackle the burning injustices, well, they’re still there.
“They’re not tackled and they’ll never be tackled by a Tory Party in hock to the rich and the powerful against the wishes of the rest of the population.
“We are serious about the Paris Climate Change Accord. And we say to [US president] Donald Trump, who’s coming this week: stand by, don’t walk away from that Climate Change Accord.
“It’s our future. It’s the young people’s future you’re dicing with.”
Calling for a general election, Mr Corbyn said: “Five hundred thousand Labour Party members are ready for that battle.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also spoke at the event, saying: “It is so important to combat the far right. And by saying far right, I include the Brexit Party.
“They breed division, fear and anger. They pull communities apart. And the Labour Party’s mission is to bring communities together.”
Earlier in the day at meetings across the city, shadow cabinet members heard the views of party members and campaign groups on the problems they face at grassroots level.
They included racism, the effects of Tory attacks on council finances, withdrawal of support for people with disabilities and special educational needs, lack of council housing and cuts in life-saving services such as fire and rescue.
Speaking after one meeting, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told the Morning Star that the demand for radical change was now embedded in the Labour Party.
“It is about socialism,” she said. “It is about the soul of the party. It comes from the grassroots.”
The Labour Roots project will be taken to Cornwall on July 27, Bolton on August 17, Hastings on October 19, Wallsend, North Tyneside, on November 23 and Birkenhead on December 14.