Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Gazette about his ‘bumpy’ ride on the Tarka line before trying his best Boris Johnson impression on stage in Barnstaple.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn made an appearance in North Devon last night, despite a 'bumpy' ride to Barnstaple on the Tarka line.

The 68-year-old politician stepped on stage at a sold-out North Devon Labour Party fundraiser at The Factory in Barnstaple, before a performance by Billy Bragg.

On stage in the 800-capacity venue, he received a warm welcome and rallied the crowds with a speech including an impression of foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Billy Bragg at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartBilly Bragg at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

Bumpy ride

Backstage before his appearance, Mr Corbyn told the Gazette he was 'delighted' to be in Barnstaple, which he had travelled to by train.

He said: "I've never been on the Tarka line before, I've always wanted to; it's a bit bumpy, but it's fun.

Jeremy Corbyn and Mark Cann backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn and Mark Cann backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"And I'll tell you, it was packed, the train, so we stood most of the way, but people were ever-so-friendly.

"I had long chats with lots of people. Unfortunately my cup of coffee fell over during a bump on the line so we had to clean up the train as well.

"But it was fun, it was nice and people were very, very good. I travel everywhere by train so I was quite happy, it was just a good, nice feeling on the train."

Jeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

Local connections

Mr Corbyn has family connections to Tiverton, Exeter and Plymouth, and said he visited the county a lot as a child.

"I can't pretend I was born in Devon, I was born in Wiltshire," he added.

A supporter videos Jeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartA supporter videos Jeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"I know politicians are very good at claiming they were born in several places, it's not possible; you can only be born in one place."

Mr Corbyn was joined backstage by Mark Cann, who has stood for the North Devon seat as the Labour candidate in the last two general elections.

Speaking of Labour's chances in the next election, Mr Corbyn said: "We got up to over 21 per cent in the general election, a big improvement; Labour is second all across Devon.

Billy Bragg backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartBilly Bragg backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"We're increasing support, a huge increase in party membership everywhere and since the general election I'm very keen on campaigning for our party."

Key issues

Mr Corbyn said transport infrastructure and broadband were key issues that needed to be addressed in North Devon.

Jeremy Corbyn backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"It is very beautiful, the Tarka line, but it is slow and it does need improvements," he said.

"The issues of economy and infrastructure investment are very important.

"If you look at the population structure, North Devon has a disproportionately large number of elderly people, it's well over 25 per cent-or-so, whereas national average would be probably about half that, and a disproportionately smaller number of young people, and therein lies a lot of a tale I suspect.

Jeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"Partly people wish to retire to North Devon, and I think that's a wonderful thing to do because it's such a beautiful place.

"But it's also opportunities for young people, and economic development in the future. The key has to be transport and broadband infrastructure."

Fairer school funding

Jeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

Mr Corbyn also said he believed there needed to be fairer funding for schools, particularly for small, rural communities.

He added: "I think education should be the most exciting and brightest time of children's lives and it shouldn't be a time of stress about school funding or their parents going through lots of stress of trying to pay for extra lessons and extra-curricular activities because the community as a whole can't provide them.

"We owe it to our children."

Jeremy Corbyn and Gazette reporter Sarah Howells at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn and Gazette reporter Sarah Howells at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

Musical evening

My Corbyn appeared on stage after appearances from Small Town Jones and Amy Newton.

Headlining the evening was musician Billy Bragg.

Jeremy Corbyn backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Corbyn backstage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

Billy told the Gazette: "It's not a part of the country I often get to come and play. One of the problems about Barnstaple is it's a bit of a Norwich, really, in the sense that it's not on the way to anywhere.

"I'm fortunate that I'm between tours so that I could come and play. Last week I was in New York and next week I was in Iceland, so Barnstaple's kind of on the way from New York to Iceland.

"I'm a member of the Labour Party in the South West and to be able to come and do something for South West Labour is quite important to me."

Jim and Reuben Jones on stage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartJim and Reuben Jones on stage at the North Devon Labour Party fundraising gig at The Factory, Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart