Poetry for the Many


Foreword by MELISSA BENN | Introduction by KARIE MURPHY

‘An excellent collection of wonderful poetry from wonderful people encouraging the working classes to embrace and enjoy culture. Poetry and music for the many!’ —Robin Campbell, UB40

‘A beautiful collection of poetry which shows how inspirational and transformative the power of words can be.’ —Brian Reade

‘Since ancient times, poetry has often been the music of the people, in verse, in song and in protest. Play on with Poetry for the Many.’ —Remi Kapo

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About the Book

Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey collaborated to help achieve the biggest electoral success for socialism in recent British history. The two men share a passionate belief in a fairer, more equal Britain, encapsulated in Labour’s election slogan “For the many, not the few.”

That slogan, inspired by Shelley’s famous poem The Masque of Anarchy, points to something else the two have in common: a lifelong enthusiasm for poetry. In this sparkling anthology they discuss the poems that have moved and enlightened them. Their choices travel over centuries and continents, with poets ranging from Shakespeare and Juana Inés de la Cruz, through William Blake and Emily Dickinson, to Bertolt Brecht, Stevie Smith and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Rounding out the collection are appreciations of poems selected by guest contributors Melissa Benn, Rob Delaney, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Ken Loach, Morag Livingstone, Francesca Martinez, Karie Murphy, Maxine Peake, Michael Rosen, Alexei Sayle and Gary Younge.

With the burgeoning popularity of poetry, especially among Gen Z, this joyful celebration of the power of verse is bound to delight and inspire across a wide audience.

All royalties from sales of this book will be donated to the Peace and Justice Project.

224 Pages • Hardback ISBN 978-1-68219-433-1 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-434-8

About the Authors

Len mccluskey and jeremy corbyn author photo

Len McCluskey (left) with Jeremy Corbyn via The Telegraph

Jeremy Corbyn is the Member of Parliament for Islington North and was Leader of the Labour Party between 2015 and 2020.

Len McCluskey was, until 2022, the General Secretary of Britain’s largest trade union, UNITE. He is the author of the recently published memoir Always Red.

Read an Excerpt

From Karie Murphy’s Introduction

It’s October 2021 and a large crowd is packed into the iconic CASA club in Liverpool – home of the celebrated striking dock workers of the 1990s. The event is a political meeting, but one with a difference. The room is heaving. People are standing, some sitting on the floor, most are young and enthused. Not a typical political meeting at all. The proceedings last just 90 minutes, but when they are over it takes another hour and a half for the room to empty. It is a gathering full of positivity and hope. On the stage are a trio of stalwarts of the left: Jeremy Corbyn, Len McCluskey, and Melissa Benn. And the rallying call of this unusual event? Poetry…


The ‘Politics and Poetry’ event at the CASA was the springboard for assembling this book. In the audience that evening I spoke to a New York resident (originally from Merseyside), the publisher Colin Robinson, and out of our discussion came the idea of capturing the mood of the night and blending it with political activism and poetry in a book.

Jeremy and Len, the former leaders of the Labour Party and Unite the union, are well known to anyone in Britain with an interest in politics – and to many further afield as well. It’s fair to say that neither man fares well in the reporting of a mainstream media in thrall to vested interests.
They are better known and understood on the political Left and among working-class communities, where their values and beliefs are represented more fairly. Both are revered and loved across those communities.

Both are staunch defenders of democracy, having served in elected positions over the last 50 years. They are both well-known public servants, in the real sense of the term. They are unashamedly proud trade unionists, who share a common history of fighting injustice in the workplace and their communities.

They are prominent socialists and Internationalists, joining forces over many decades with others who campaign for peace and justice. Branded as anti-establishment figures, they wear the accusation as a badge of honour, taking the view that if the establishment is attacking them, they must be doing something right.


This book will give the reader a new opportunity to get to know both these men better in a unique and perhaps surprising way. Alongside the widely-known fact of their shared political beliefs, there is something less well-known that they have in common and that underpins their friendship: a love of poetry.

In reading Poetry for the Many, you will journey through a rich selection of their favourite verse, and hear from Jeremy and Len in their own words as they describe how they came across each poem and the impact it had on them. At the same time, they will encourage you, the reader, to embrace poetry and shake off any notion that it is not something to be read, written, or appreciated by working class people.

Working class women and men have contributed so much to poetry, both historic and contemporary, much of it in the form of rhyme, ode, and lyrics. Many of these styles of poetry are captured and celebrated in this book. And many recognised poets are rightly given credit for their enduring works.
The poets chosen are recognised for their creative abilities, often exercised in the most appalling of political and personal circumstances.

The poems selected will stir every emotion, from heartbreak to profound love, from pride in bravery to the despair of war. Some poets are well-known, others less so. But all of them are inspiring to read, and their talent is celebrated by Jeremy and Len with words that are personal and passionate.

This book gives the reader an opportunity to look behind the well-documented public faces of Len and Jeremy, to discover the influences that shaped their strong values and beliefs.

What emerges in these pages is an understanding of the strong relationship between the favourite poetry of the two men and their lifetime commitment to progressive politics and activism.

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