It was cheers all round for Unite general secretary Len McCluskey when he announced at Saturday’s (July 11) 150,000 strong Durham Miners’ Gala that, “Unite has signed up 50,000 of our members to take part in the Labour Party leadership election.”
Unite is backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. The Islington North MP with his clear opposition to austerity was asked to speak by the gala organisers, the Durham Miners’ Association.
He did not disappoint the crowd, making a passionate case against austerity and anyone blaming migrants when “the way forward is unity in struggle.”
‘It can be done’
He said he was in favour of “workers’ and trade union rights, collective bargaining and a society of full employment, decency and human rights that eliminates poverty here and elsewhere. It can be done.” The response of the crowd to Jeremy was a resounding yes.
In fact all the Gala speakers made clear they hoped to see Jeremy Corbyn become Labour leader in September.
They included FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, who attacked the government’s hypocrisy for having praised the essential services on the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks last Tuesday only to “impose on Wednesday greater hardships on public sector workers by announcing an annual one per cent pay deal for the next four years.”
Journalist and author Owen Jones argued, “Labour didn’t offer an inspiring alternative or challenge the myth that the crisis was caused because the last Labour government spent too much on schools and hospitals.
“Yet the Tories have overseen the weakest economic recovery ever. Failure has become success because of a supine media and weak opposition. I back Jeremy Corbyn, a man of conviction who has been repeatedly vindicated for his stand on initially unpopular causes such as lesbian and gay rights.”
But it was Len McCluskey who received the greatest cheering when he announced that 50,000 members had signed up to take part in the Labour leadership election.
“That number grows daily as workers from all industries get involved.
“When Unite backed Jeremy Corbyn I expected the Daily Mail attacks but it was the ferocity of the attack by some in the Labour Party that confirmed we had taken the correct decision.
“Is it extreme to oppose zero hours contracts and an illegal war? Jeremy stands for the values of our age of equality, decency, fairness and social justice.”
The speeches followed the traditional march through the ancient cobbled streets of Durham City. The gala first started in 1871 and Saturday’s was the 131st and largest in many years.
The magnificent Castle and Cathedral provided a fitting background for a magnificent display of over 100 trade union and Labour movement banners that were accompanied by booming brass bands, including Unite’s (pictured).
New banners included one from the Teesside Construction Committee, formed by Unite and GMB members to oppose moves by SITASembcorp at Redcar to slash construction workers pay and employment opportunities on a new waste to energy project.
Hundreds of construction workers have joined Friday morning protests at the site for over three months. Unite member Tony Seaman (pictured), an advanced scaffolder denied work at Redcar, was attending his first gala.
He said, “I am amazed by the numbers, the passion and colour of the occasion. This won’t be my last gala.”
*Pics by Mark Harvey