Much has been made of the need for Jeremy Corbyn to listen to pro-Brexit voters in Labour’s northern heartlands. But it is becoming apparent that his other major support base – young people in metropolitan areas – can no longer be taken for granted.
Several of Labour’s gains in the 2017 election were in university towns and cities where students turned out in droves to support the leftwing leader. On Saturday, however, many of those same young people were demonstrating to show that Corbyn may not be able to count on their support if he doesn’t oppose Brexit. They have a new message for him: “If you’re with us, we’re with you” – the implication being that, if you’re not, we’re not.
The slogan was emblazoned across an enormous red banner in Leeds city centre, where young campaigners gathered to collect signatures for a petition asking Corbyn to back a public vote. Wrapped up in gloves and scarves, with 70s and 80s hits blasting from their portable speaker, they set out to approach the shoppers going about their day.
Among the activists was Ryan Simms, 26, who works in procurement for the NHS in Leeds and has been a Labour supporter for six years – but only joined the party after Corbyn became leader. “I liked him because he wasn’t afraid to be different to the Tories,” Simms said. “Unlike other politicians, he has always stuck to his beliefs, even when they were unpopular. But if he keeps sitting on the fence on this issue, it’ll make me wonder whether he’s not so principled after all.”
Charlie Roberts, 21, and Catherine Fairbairn, 19, who are both students at Leeds, said they would vote Green next time unless Labour backed a public vote. “Corbyn wants an election, but it’ll be one where we have the choice between a Tory Brexit deal and some magical…