Tomorrow, Saturday 8th July, a crowd of 200,000 trade unionists, workers, and youth are expected to descend upon Durham for the annual Gala. The main draw this year will be Jeremy Corbyn, speaking on the back of an inspiring election campaign. With Labour now riding high in the polls, the task ahead is to fight to put Corbyn in Downing Street on a socialist programme.
Summer in the North East is dominated by one event above all others. The Durham Miners Gala, held annually since 1871, is expected this year to draw a crowd of 200,000 from across the region, the highest turnout since the 1950s.
The Gala – taking place this weekend, on Saturday 8th July – traditionally has a strong line up of left-wing speakers and this year will be no exception. Jeremy Corbyn is the main reason for the huge expected turnout, following his headline performance at Glastonbury, with the Labour leader enthusing swathes of the population on the back of a bold and inspiring general election campaign.
This will not be Corbyn’s first time at the Gala, having spoken alongside Dennis Skinner MP last year, with Labour deputy Tom Watson barred from attending after repeatedly undermining Corbyn’s leadership.
Corbyn will be ably supported by, amongst others, award-winning director Ken Loach and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. Just as the Labour leader supports the event, so too the event supports Jeremy. Alan Cummings, secretary of the Durham Miners Association, told Corbyn in the build up to the general election that his greatest wish was to introduce him as Prime Minister at the Gala. “Who knows,” Cummings later told The Chronicle, “the way things are going, I could do yet!”
The Durham Miners Gala is a landmark day in the Labour movement’s calendar. It is a chance for the working class to show its strength, standing together against the onslaught of Tory austerity and capitalist crisis.
This year’s event in particular will be a memorable occasion. As Corbyn hammers home his advantage over a beleaguered Conservative government, the atmosphere is sure to be vibrant and optimistic, with workers and youth rallying in support of a figure who is leading the transformation the Labour Party back into a genuine mass grassroots movement for radical change.
Tomorrow will also be a poignant day, as we remember the destruction of the mining industry led by Thatcher in the 1980s – the last pit in Durham closed in the early ’90s. Yet this is no time for mourning. Not since they returned to power in coalition with the Lib Dems have the Conservative Party been so weak, and so vulnerable against the mass support Corbyn is building up within the working class, especially the youth.
The trade unions, Labour’s rank-and-file membership and, above all, a united working class are the driving force behind Corbyn’s charge on Downing Street. As such, this year’s Gala will be both a marker of how far we as a movement have come over the last couple of years and a statement of intent for the next few months. In contrast to the flailing Tories and their chaotic minority government, the Labour movement will offer a display of strength.
Corbyn has recently announced that he and Labour are already on a campaign footing, preparing for another general election in the coming months. With the momentum behind Corbyn and the Tories facing a series of crises, the latest opinion polls now put Labour ahead of the Conservatives by 8 percentage points. The task facing us now is to get behind Corbyn and organise to put a socialist Labour government in power.