Some of you may have seen a photo I posted last week of my meeting with Jeremy Corbyn. He popped into my office and chatted for 45 minutes before making a speech at The Station on why we should stay in the EU. It was a shock to say the least!

Two staff members discuss something in the office

At the beginning of the day we knew the Labour Party had booked space at The Station but didn't know what for.  By 11am there was a rumour that Marvin Rees and Jeremy were going to be there.  On the off chance that I might get a couple of minutes with them in their busy schedules I cancelled my afternoon meetings (sorry Paivii!) and ‘hung around’ feeling a bit redundant and stupid – like a teenager waiting for a pop star.  

Feeling like I ought to do something useful while waiting, I worked in the office upstairs when Derek, our Estates Director, walked in with a person it took me a few seconds to recognise.  Meeting a public figure often takes a while to register, you feel you know them but have never met them. Despite knowing he was in the building, seeing Jeremy Corbyn in the office still took me by surprise.   

We sat down with a cup of tea and the cogs in my brain started  whirring trying to think about how best to use the undoubtedly short time I would have with the leader of the Labour Party - 5 minutes at best I thought. 

45 minutes later we were still talking.  Shooting the breeze with a young person who walked in too - talking about youth, politics, the Middle East and the EU.  It is so rare to get this much time with someone at the top of ‘the system’ but it was a real privilege.  He genuinely listened and discussed the issues seriously.  On Ujima Radio later in the day he commented on making youth services a statutory duty if he became PM.  I have no idea if our conversation helped confirm this but clearly it’s a good thing from Creative Youth Network’s point of view and one I would wholeheartedly agree with. 

After speaking with Joey Essex (from TOWIE) in the chill out area and listening to a song from a young person, Jeremy went on to make his speech. Afterwards he spent an hour in the café talking to anyone and everyone there. This, I learned, is how he operates. 

I have a number of mixed thoughts about the afternoon.  With his uncompromising and passionate views he has managed to galvanise a mass of supporters who had given up on politics. His ‘army’ of volunteers should not be underestimated.  President Obama mobilised the masses when he won the US election first time around. The voter turnout and margin of victory for Marvin Rees at the mayoral elections in Bristol has to owe something to the ‘Corbyn effect’. 

However, in the discussions we had it felt he was struck with the theory of the capitalist state where the motivations of those in power are simply to maintain that power.  I think it is too easy to espouse ‘motherhood and apple pie’ policies that no one can disagree with when not in power.  But l)eadership requires hard choices in messy situations - that's why we hate politicians so much. From Syria to housing in Bristol, leaders must make decisions on where to put limited resources; making judgements not between ‘good and evil’ but between one good cause and another, between one evil and another. 

Jeremy absolutely challenged the notion of the ‘busy leader’ who can spend only a few minutes in each meeting in order to spread his wisdom, thoughts or decisions to as many people as possible.  This was not a man who sought photo opportunities or shallow encounters but wanted to meet people and find out what they think.  This is a quality I have to admire - being present with everyone you encounter is a real skill and one that makes us all feel valued.  

My parting thought is that good leaders challenge us to think differently. I shall always remember, and be grateful for, the time he spent with us in a way no other public figure has.