The Durham Miners’ Gala symbolises the strength of our movement – Ian Lavery MP


“While the political landscape at this time can look particularly bleak, this weekend at the Gala once again reignited my energy and determination to make this a better country for the ordinary man and woman.”

By Ian Lavery MP

I write this article off the back of a fantastic weekend at the Durham Miners’ Gala, catching up with old friends and new and delighting in the rituals and traditions of brass bands and branch banners, reaffirming the solidarity and camaraderie that underpins our communities. 

Despite the difficult period that our movement finds itself in, the Gala itself continues to go from strength to strength as both a celebration of working class culture and our proud industrial heritage, but also in realising its long tradition of political agitation and radicalism.

Yet this year the Gala took place in an atmosphere where dissenting voices are being silenced by a government without any solutions to our countries many problems, and afraid of powerful movements with new, radical ideas ready to challenge the status quo that has been failing ordinary, hardworking people for too long.

Since the 2019 general election, rather than using their majority to harness the power of the state to protect people from the forces of globalisation and austerity that have ripped apart their communities and former industries, the Tories have been hell bent on pushing through draconian legislation to silence the voices of those brave enough to stand up to them and those whose economic interests they are there to protect.

Over the past few years the government have passed a number of sinister legislation imposing new restrictions with serious implications for our right to free speech and assembly. They have attacked the ability for democratic trade unions to organise industrial actions, curbed the rights of individuals to freely and peacefully protest, imposed arbitrary and discriminatory voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise demographics rightly hostile to their political agenda, and are currently attempting to impede the right to boycott.

We have to now start seriously asking whether the Miners’ Gala itself, with its long tradition of radical and dissenting voices against right wing governments, faces an existential threat of its own as crackdowns on political demonstrations become increasingly intense and authoritarian.

The root of this lies in the government’s complete lack of ideas to get us through the vast range of challenges the country faces today.

People want to hear real solutions that will make a real, tangible difference to their lives. How will the government bring inflation down and get wages, which have stagnated for over a decade, to rise? What is our long term industrial strategy to create potentially millions of new jobs in emerging sectors? What is our long term strategy to bring down energy prices while protecting the environment?

Instead they are offered banal commentary and debate on obscure culture war issues that the vast majority of the public remain utterly interested in as the struggle to find ways to put food on the table and keep the heating on during winter. The country is screaming out for a government who will shake us out of the economic orthodoxy that has depressed wages and uprooted communities over the past four decades with one that will out their economic and social interest first.

While the political landscape at this time can look particularly bleak, this weekend at the Gala once again reignited my energy and determination to make this a better country for the ordinary man and woman. I want to place on record once again my unwavering support to all the trade unions fighting tooth and nail for a fair deal for their workers, a proper pay packet that covers all the bills, and to defend our cherished public services that are under ideological attack from this Conservative Party.

I have stood on picket lines up and down the country with workers from posties to nurses to rail workers. All of them have in common a deep commitment to their profession and the people they serve and are aghast at the way they are being systematically dismantled by the current government. Last weekend reminds us of the battles won and lost since that first gala weekend over 150 years ago.

It is important to remember that if we keep the faith, keep the solidarity, then better days lie ahead for this country.

Featured image: Ian Lavery “it’s time for real change.” Photo credit: Ian Lavery MP

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