The Labour leader reportedly infuriated photographers and the press by ignoring them, and instead talked to shoppers and young mothers in Bristol’s Easton district.
Local media reported that Labour officials “were left tearing their hair out” after Corbyn stopped and held up the media scrum to listen to people who stopped him in the street.
Corbyn had left Westminster to campaign in support of Marvin Rees, the Labour candidate for Bristol mayor, who has sought to highlight the city’s stark inequalities and the plight of its poor.
Ian Onions, the political editor of the Bristol Post, described it as “a walkabout by a political leader like no other”.
“Instead of the usual stage-managed performance, meeting and greeting people specially handpicked for the occasion, Jeremy Corbyn took to the streets of Easton to talk, listen and have his photo taken with shoppers, traders and passersby,” Onions reported.
Tristan Cork, writing in the Western Daily Press, reported that Corbyn ignored spin doctors by stopping to listen to people who approached him in the street.
“That sparked chaotic scenes as the press and media jostled for photos and interviews, but Corbyn was having none of it. If a chat with a person took five or six minutes, then he would hold up the entire press pack,” according to Cork’s account.
During the walkabout, Corbyn visited local businesses, including a social enterprise cafe where a third of the diners don’t pay because they are too poor to afford food, and a supermarket, where he switched into Spanish to chat with a worker.
Rees said that almost as soon as he and Corbyn began their walk through Easton, passersby stopped to speak to the Labour leader and shake his hand.
“My overall impression was that people were desperate to talk politics and to share stories with him that they felt there has not necessarily been much space for in politics,” Rees said.
“When someone comes along and throws open the door on real political conversation, [and] questions the status quo and easy assumptions, I think there is a real appetite for that.”
Rees would not be drawn into commenting on the factionalism that has divided Labour’s parliamentary party since Corbyn’s election. Some Labour backbenchers have claimed he will hamper Labour’s chances of mounting a credible challenge to the Tories.
Rees was pipped to the post by the independent George Ferguson in 2012. With every result seen to reflect on its leftwing leader, Labour is investing much in this year’s campaign. Corbyn has already visited the city three times as Labour leader.
“It’s a test for the party to get its message across – the message of opposition to austerity, the message of dealing with the housing crisis which is gripping this country – and we are doing our best to do that,” Corbyn told the Bristol Post.
This article was written by Damien Gayle, for theguardian.com on Saturday 2nd April 2016 15.02 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010