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RMT boss Mick Lynch turns up heat on Keir Starmer at scorching Durham Miners' Gala

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 09/07/2022 Mike Kelly

In an impassioned speech union boss Mick Lynch told a huge crowd at the Durham Miners' Gala : "We're back. The working class is back. We refuse to be meek, we refuse to be humble and we refuse to be poor anymore."

Even with Gala favourite, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attending the event, the star turn was the RMT general secretary who got a rapturous reception. His high profile defence of his members in the recent rail strikes has provided a boost to Britain's union movement.

He took aim the Conservative party and its battle to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is to resign. "I don't give a monkey's who the leader of the Tory party is," he said.

Read more: Durham Miners' Gala 2022 RECAP: The historic event returned after a two year hiatus

Labelling it a party of billionaires and a public school elite, he said: "We cannot tolerate anymore their ruthless pursuit of profit. We have to be ruthless in our pursuit of social justice."

In sweltering heat, the turn out at the 136th Durham Miners' Gala was vast. Organisers had hoped for up to 200,000 people would come after its return following a two year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. And they probably won't be far wrong.

The parade of bands and banners at the Durham Miners Gala 2022 © ncjMedia The parade of bands and banners at the Durham Miners Gala 2022

More than 50 brass bands and 50 colliery banners paraded through the Durham streets, the most since before the 1984/85 miners strike. Past the County Hotel on Old Elvet they paraded, a riot of colour and sound, pausing to do their 'party piece' music numbers.

And quite an eclectic mix there was from traditional and older numbers like the beautiful, sombre Gresford (the Miners' Hymn) and the Blaydon Races, through the decades to Come on Eileen, YMCA - which got at least a couple of airings - and the Britney Spears hit 'Baby One More Time'.

Hosted by the Durham Miners Association (DMA), the Gala was established in 1871 and this year's event was dedicated to key workers - the ordinary working people who kept the country going throughout the pandemic.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miners Gala © ncjMedia Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Durham Miners Gala

It saw Holly Johnston, a nurse and member of the GMB union, and Rohan Kon a postal worker and member of the CWU, join Mr Lynch and other speakers Sharon Graham of Unite; Patrick Roach of the NASUWT, Jo Grady, UCU, and Clare Williams, UNISON Northern’s Regional Secretary. They were also joined by the warmly received Yvette Williams MBE, co-founder of the Justice4Grenfell movement.

While the Gala is a celebration of working class culture and traditions, at its heart is politics and as a result, the debilitating effect the cost-of-living crisis was having on working people was the theme of the day. Ms Williams spoke of key workers "going from working on the frontline to living on the breadline".

Speaking earlier in the day, Mr Lynch, who attended the event with his wife Mary, said: "We've got to take action if we are going to get a square deal from corporate Britain. I think there is a mood for change.

Mick Lynch and wife Mary at the Durham Miners gala © ncjMedia Mick Lynch and wife Mary at the Durham Miners gala

"People want to concentrate on the needs of working people and these needs are very obvious. People can't afford to live even if they are in full time employment in many cases.

"We need a bit of redistribution of wealth. The rich have to give a bit up so the less well-to-do can get a fairer share of the products of their labour."

Asked about the difference between his union's relationship with Mr Corbyn compared to present Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, he said: "We don't have a great relationship with Keir Starmer."

He added: "I hope that he can find an identity that is with working people and with their causes and the campaigns we're running. I think that is essential for him to be successful at the ballot box and to get a Labour government.

"I want a Labour government and the Labour leader is Keir Starmer. If he can win that there will be a change and it will be in our interests.

"But he's got to do that on a message that he supports working people, that he supports the end of low pay and a set of employment rights that will address the inequalities of work that we've currently got.

"Then all the other stuff - housing, support for education, social care and the NHS - come with it. But we start with a square deal in the pay packet of the British worker."

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