Jeremy Corbyn appeared at a surprise rally in Manchester this evening, but Andy Burnham, who today decisively won the race to become the city's mayor, was conspicuously absent from the event.
Corbyn's supporters turned out in droves to welcome Britain's "next prime minister" to the city – despite a devastating afternoon of election results for Labour.
The event was described on Facebook by Manchester and Trafford Momentum as an opportunity "to celebrate Labour's Andy Burnham being elexted [sic] as Mayor for Greater Manchester this evening with Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn".
However, Burnham's team initially denied the event was even taking place – despite Corbyn's team saying the pair would be appearing together.
Corbyn appeared in Manchester at just three and a half hours' notice, after an email went out to Momentum members at about 3pm this afternoon – by which time it was clear that Burnham was going to win the mayoral election.
The email told supporters to meet outside Manchester Central conference centre at 6.30pm – the same venue where Burnham's resounding victory had been announced just three hours earlier.
Around 300 supporters, including actor Maxine Peake and director Ken Loach, gathered on the steps of the venue before Corbyn made his appearance just after 7pm.
Corbyn's campaign manager Andrew Gwynne told the gathered crowds he was delighted to be in "Labour-held Greater Manchester" and Manchester Gorton by-election candidate Afzal Khan hailed Labour success in Manchester, before shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey announced Corbyn as Britain's "next prime minister".
All three glossed over what has been a difficult day of election results for Labour, before Corbyn addressed supporters – also failing to mention the party's devastating losses.
The Labour leader said he had campaigned on Thursday in Witney, and spoke of a "big swing to Labour in Oxfordshire". The results actually showed the Conservatives maintaining their 31 seats, with Labour actually dropping one and the Liberal Democrats picking up two.
Corbyn was met with resounding cheers as he pledged to end zero-hours contracts and invest in the National Health Service, and promised supporters "roses as well as bread" by offering school children free music tuition as well as free school meals.
He then called on his supporters to replicate Labour's success in Manchester across the UK, saying: "This great city of Manchester has meant so much to the Labour movement, we've learned so much from it, let's take this out to the whole country."
However, Corbyn refused to answer difficult questions on a day when the party had suffered heavy losses ahead of a general election.
When BuzzFeed asked Corbyn to explain Labour's shock defeat in Tees Valley he simply looked away as his minders ushered him into a waiting car.
Hannah Al-Othman is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at email@example.com.
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