On the European leg of his book tour for ‘Our Revolution‘, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stepped out on stage at the O2 Brixton Academy. With six days to go before the UK General Election, Sanders arrived in London greeted by an audience of 5,000 passionate admirers eager to hear what the great man had to say. With issues of social justice, inequality and the environment key to both Sanders’ 2016 campaign and the UK’s progressive parties campaign’s, the event couldn’t have come at a more poignant time for the UK.
Testimony to the energy and excitement of the crowd came from the constant cheering and applause from the crowd throughout the two and a half hours Sanders was on stage!
Sanders began the evening talking to the crowd about the Trump Presidency, whereas you’d expect Trump did not come out well from. Sanders immediately dived into Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Sanders targeted Trump for lying to the American people about climate change, energy jobs and the impact of the climate deal – to name a few – all in order to win votes at any cost. Sanders highlighted how the “green economy is growing rapidly“, and “solar energy is the cheapest form of electricity“, and that the US is handing over leadership to other countries in the world. He also pointed out that while Trump was turning his back on solar power, Chile is actually producing so much that they are giving it away, and planning to produce even more!
Moving away from Trump, Sanders moved on to an issue hugely important to millions of Americans and Britons. Social Justice and Inequality! Sanders went on to hit all the campaign and book highlights. Hitting out at the US oligarchs controlling politics, including the Koch brothers, and the consecutive governments which have allowed for the widest gap between the rich and the poor since the 1920’s. Sanders went back to the campaign classic …
There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent!
Despite the American focus on the issue, the claims of Sanders did not fall on deaf ears. As Bernie continued to address the levels of social and economic inequality he has witnessed, cries came from the audience of “its the same here” and “Theresa May OUT OUT OUT!“
For the final hour of the evening, Sanders took audience questions from David Lammy MP. Bernie was asked whether he either believed that his ‘lingering’ on the Democratic stage led to Trump’s victory; or that he would have been President had the Democratic Party or establishment conspired against him?
Bernie answered the first instantly, no! He pointed to the many thousands of youngsters his campaign had witnessed register to vote, especially in California, during the election campaign. Instead, Bernie suggested that the issue lay deeper, most likely in voter apathy. Bernie pointed out how only 36.4% of eligible voters did so in the 2014 midterms and only around 50% in the recent Presidential election. Instead much rather than his own lingering on the Democratic stage, Bernie pushed the debate around the question put to him to the rise of voter suppression laws.
As for the second question, he answered simply “we will never know.” Bernie went on to say that it is not in his character or nature to look back. Instead, he much prefers to look forwards, as he recommends we all do.
The event came to an end with Lammy telling Bernie and the crowd that he had received a text from another Bernie fan who was up in York on the night, Jeremy Corbyn at Question Time. The text described Corbyn’s admiration of Sanders and invited him back to the UK after he had formed a new government of June 9th. The crowd immediately responded as they had throughout the night, with huge cheers and chants of “Jer-remy Cor-byn!” The cheers were matched moments later as Corbyn’s text finished with a further invitation for Sanders to come and help Corbyn solve the social and economic inequality in the UK.
After two and a half hours of non-stop debate and discussion, Bernie Sanders walked off the stage for the last time, to his third standing ovation of the evening. The crowd left the Brixton Academy having heard one of the most inspiring, insightful and honest political discussions the UK has seen for some years.