McCluskey tops Miners Gala bill – but ‘Red Ed’ not invited

Union chiefs Len McCluskey and Matt Wrack and left-wing author Owen Jones will top the bill at this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.

The general secretaries of Unite and the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be joined by the firebrand Guardian columnist on the Durham Racecourse speakers’ stage at Europe’s biggest trade union event on Sunday, July 11.

Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper will also introduce Steve Murphy from UCATT, John McDonald from ASLEF and Chris Keates from the NASUWT.

However, Ed Miliband will be absent – organisers having decided not to invite the Labour leader.

Mr Miliband, who claimed the Labour leadership ahead of his brother David with strong union backing, became the first party boss to address the Gala since Neil Kinnock when he travelled to Durham in 2012, but has not returned since.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the 131st Gala, as dozens of brass and bagpipe bands march union and colliery banners through Durham City’s historic streets past dignitaries watching from the first floor balcony of the Royal County Hotel and to the Racecourse where, in addition to the political speeches which start at about 1pm, there will be family entertainment, campaign stalls and more.

 The traditional blessing of the banners service will take place in Durham Cathedral.

Mr Hopper said he was very pleased with the speakers line-up.

The outcome of this week’s General Election is bound to be the central theme of the speeches; and Mr Hopper said he could not see Labour winning.

The Scottish girl (Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon) has run rings around them.

“Miliband hasn’t come across very well. She’s putting him on the spot every time,” he said.

Last year’s Gala had a mournful feel, as guests paid tribute to the late Labour grandee Tony Benn and union leader Bob Crow.

On Gala day, the centre of Durham will be closed to traffic from 7am. Visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.

There is an ongoing appeal to support the continuation of the Gala. Supporters are invited to become a Friend of the event, for a minimum fee of £2 a month. For more information, visit friendsofdurhamminersgala.org

> Interesting developments ?  Are the decision not to invite Miliband, and Dave Hopper’s comments about Labour’s chances the beginnings of a move away from the Labour Party ? 

Source –  Durham Times, 04 May 2015

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