Is the East falling for Jeremy Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a Labour Party leadership hustings at Parr Hall, Warrington, Cheshire. P

Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a Labour Party leadership hustings at Parr Hall, Warrington, Cheshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 25, 2015. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire - Credit: PA

He is the surprise candidate who has electrified the Labour leadership elections. Ahead of Jeremy Corbyn's visit to Norwich tomorrow, political editor ANNABELLE DICKSON assesses his standing in the region

Corbyn-mania is like a chant in a football crowd, muses old friend and former Norwich MP Ian Gibson. 'It starts with one or two people and it spreads very quickly.'

If Labour members anoint the Islington North MP at the contest climax in September, even Dr Gibson, who left after his treatment at the hands of the party over the expenses scandal, could be tempted back.

The pair were part of an anti-Blair 'old campaign group' in his Westminster days. They would meet each week to plot how they would try to amend legislation.

It will be interesting how the party reacts when he wins,' Mr Gibson chuckles. He warns he might have difficulty getting his policies through the party machine, but suggests that with the right support, he could last the course. 'He is going to need a lot of support and a lot of help. It depends who he has on his side and how they are at operating in the vicious world.'

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It is not just his fellow Westminster plotter who is backing team Jeremy. People of all ages and backgrounds can be found at his rallies.

Unsuccessful North-West Norfolk Labour candidate Jo Rust describes his policies as 'common sense'.

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'Rail re-nationalisation is just one that has popular support. Our membership are excited about our leadership (or potential) for the first time in years. Even non-members I've been in touch with support Jeremy Corbyn,' she says.

She says it was the recent vote on the Conservative welfare plans which cemented her support – Labour MPs were told to abstain and it was just Mr Corbyn in the leadership race who defied the party whip.

'I've been advised of all the technicalities, but it doesn't cut the mustard. Jeremy, along with Clive Lewis (Norwich South), Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) and others voted against it. They opposed it as we would want an opposition to do.'

He seems to have excited a wider interest in this region.

Well over 1,500 people have signed up to a rally in Norwich tomorrow night. But while Mr Corbyn has grabbed the headlines, support in the Labour Party is not universal.

Mick Castle, veteran Labour councillor for Great Yarmouth, warns Mr Corbyn is operating in a world which had gone. 'Back in the 70s and 80s, the kind of thing he espouses might have had some traction. But we are now in 2015 and it is a very different kind of society and a different kind of world. If Labour is going to win a majority in the country it has got to appeal to more than a narrow part of the movement,' he says.

He suggests the campaign has been 'self-fulfilling', and the veteran backbencher had only become the focus of attention after 'some well-meaning do-gooders' had nominated him.

While he acknowledges the younger members, who had not been around in the 1980s, might have a different take, he says: 'All I know is that we had 18 years in opposition and it did not help working people, or anybody. We had a far longer dose of Thatcher and Major than we would have had if we had a leader that was leading us in a progressive way, but taking account of the things that had changed.

'I live in Yarmouth and it has gone between Labour and Tory for as long as anyone can remember. You can't take anyone for granted. You have got to have a message for the future which strikes a chord with the lives people are leading now.'

Do you have a politics story? Email political editor Annabelle Dickson at

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