My feet were still hurting from the march on Sunday just gone. I didn’t care too much as I practically floating on hope in the overflow of people, the seven thousand strong on a Monday night, who couldn’t get in to Manchester Cathedral to see Jeremy Corbyn speak at the People’s Post protest. Outside the organisers erected a gazebo and sound system near Harvey Nicks and Selfridges so old JC and friends could speak to us as well. His main point was to try and save the last fifteen per cent of the Royal Mail and the heart of the postal service – the cherished Universal Service. This service is the promise that no matter where you live, whether that be Land’s End or John O’Groats, if you pay 63p on one day, your first class letter will get there the next.
We the people all pointed forwards like penguins at feeding time. Hungry for change, we clapped after every sentence was delivered. Posties everywhere were coming alive in our minds as a vital part of what makes Britain Great. Suddenly in the thick of it, a scuffle. A voice even louder than those on stage could be heard above our heads.
“Excuse me.” We the people moved out of the way.
“Excuse me.” We the people shuffled back stepping on each other’s toes.
A ripple effect was going through the crowd. Heads turned. Necks craned. Eyes darted nervously around. An old man in a blue pin striped suit wearing thick glasses marched through holding his briefcase aloft.
“Excuse me,” he bellowed in a voice more powerful than his slight frame would suggest. He was oblivious there was a rally going on. He cut through everyone easily. He disappeared into the sodium night. He left behind a trail of questions surfing waves of bemusement on the warm night air.
The penguins settled back down. A few moments later a leathery man with thick black hair and a beard appeared in our midst. He had piercing grey eyes. He held up a crushed polystyrene cup to one person then another. He mumbled, “Mer ner eeee.” No heads turned. Hands scratched at necks. Eyes fixed self-consciously on the stage. No-one moved. The skinny shabby man slid in between the cracks in the crowd. He occasionally repeated his incoherent mumble. His cup stayed as light on the way down as on the way up. No-one wondered who was he or where was he going. We the people couldn’t afford to look.
I shifted my weight from the left foot to the right and back again, desperate to get some feeling into my heels. Up on tip toes I got a better view of Jeremy stood square on to the crowd. His clothes were too big for him: a light grey tweedy suit coat, dark trousers, and a billowy white shirt haphazardly tucked in. He had new glasses. Half way through his speech he chucked away his crib notes. His hand jabbed the air awkwardly. His was a different kind of leadership; an intelligent academic voice, not a anaphylactic political one, and it rang soft, insistent and true.