I was at the Durham Miners Gala today, It was a good, but slightly surreal day. I was invited to the County Hotel with some of the other newly selected Labour council candidates to meet Ed Miliband. I happened to bump into Tony Benn which was nice, I shook his hand we talked breifly I was glad to have met one of my political heroes. He remains quick witted and is a great politician. Then I marched slowly down to the cricket ground with the UCU banner talking about the cuts and the maketisation of education. When we reached the cricket ground I enjoyed a beer with a Union colleague who was in good humour despite being at risk of redundancy. Far away from front-bench politics there is a real struggle - people are fighting for their jobs.
After Tom Watson and some good rabble rousing speeches by Trade Unionists it was the turn of the Labour leader. Ed played it cool, staying away from discussion of the Partys relationship with the Unions and treading a much safer path; laying into the Tories and Lib Dems. This was very well received by the crowd. There were a small number (about 5) protesters who heckled a bit and had signs saying that Labour were the same as the Tories, a criticism that I believe is a couple of years out of date. The massed ranks applauded at the end and Ed looked happy and relieved that it had gone so well.
I personally thought that it was good that a Labour Leader returned to speak at the Big Meeting after 25 years. People both inside and outside the Labour Party are warming to Ed Miliband and taking him seriously. The Labour Leader speaking at the Big Meeting could be seen as symbolic but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction.
I then walked back up to County Hall with fellow Labour candidate Malcolm Clarke, who has been selected to stand in Consett South. We were at the steps on Elvet Bridge when I noticed that a brass band had Gresford - the miners hymn - next on the music clipped to their instruments. We stopped and waited for them to start to play one of the most moving pieces of music ever. I thought of men and lads who had died in the mining disasters of the past in places like Stanley where 168 were lost. I thought of my grandfathers both miners who survived the pit but not did not escape 'miners lung' the emphysema that came later - The price of coal has always been high.
Durham Miners Gala 2012 – A Day to Remember