Jeremy Corbyn will address a rally in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday as he seeks to win support in key battleground seats in which the party performed poorly at last year’s general election. He is also due to visit Mansfield, which Labour lost to the Tories in 2017.
Party chiefs have hired the Bet365 stadium, home to recently-relegated Stoke City, for next week’s event. But Corbyn may not receive the warmest of welcomes from Stoke City owner Peter Coates, the multimillionaire founder of Bet365.
Coates, a major Labour donor, told the Times last year he was supporting the party ‘through gritted teeth’ and described the party under Corbyn as a ‘mess’.
Speaking in February of last year, he said Labour appeared to have no chance of winning a general election and declared he wouldn’t make any more donations until that changed – a prediction that proved prescient when Theresa May managed to cling on to power four months later despite heading the worst election campaign in living memory.
Coates has also said in the past that he is ‘interested’ in the idea of a new party if Corbyn remained in charge of Labour, although that comment also predated the party’s better-than-expected election performance.
That has since been reframed as a triumph by some on the left, of course, despite the fact it paved the way for another five years of Tory cuts and the possibility of a very hard Brexit.
The rumours about a breakaway party won’t go away, although Labour’s never-ending antisemitism crisis remains the story of the summer.
It remains to be seen if Corbyn will address that issue on Tuesday – but it seems unlikely Coates will be present to take part in the inevitable chants of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’.
Perhaps the Stoke City owner prefers that other three word-chant that rings out at grounds around the country every weekend: ‘who are you?’