Durham Miners' Gala to welcome Miliband


This weekend the Opposition leader Ed Miliband will become the first Labour leader since 1989 to address the Durham Miners' Gala.

Organisers of the event, a high point of the trade union movement calendar and a celebration of the north-east's mining heritage, are looking to Mr Miliband to convey messages of "hope and inspiration" to over 100,000 working people.

"The Gala is still as relevant as it's ever been," said Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners' Association. "It's the only mass working-class demonstration left in the country."

Mr Hopper is confident that Mr Miliband's appearance will boost the overall attendance figures.

He added that people in the north east are waiting for politicians to convey a positive message. "I think it's time we got back to the values of honesty and caring for people," he said. "We've got to pick up this cudgel and start campaigning to change society back."

"I always thought it was the ambition of society to improve and make progress, we've gone back in a lot of ways in the last 15 years. Let's hope we get a message of hope and inspiration on Saturday."

In the 128 years since the first Gala, the nature of the workers' movement has radically changed, with employees from mass 'new technology' firms now as closely involved with the event as their forebears from the 'smokestack' industries.

21-year-old Craig Dawson, chair of the County Durham Young Labour group, noted that the delegation of call-centre workers preparing to march under the GMB banner shows how the Gala has moved on.

"It couldn't have gone on as a simple mining event because we don't have any mines left," said Mr Dawson. "Although the pits have closed it's become a symbol of pride for the community to have the banners on show."

The Gala will also be attended by Simpson Millar LLP, a law firm sympathetic to the aims of unions, including TUC, GMB, CWU etc.

"We expect this year's event to be highly successful," said Simpson Millar's Allison Chatto.

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