Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Miliband denies gala speech risk

Ed Miliband has denied he took an electoral risk by becoming the first Labour leader since Neil Kinnock in 1989 to address one of the country's most traditional trade union events.

Around 100,000 people are expected to attend the Durham Miners' Gala, also known as The Big Meeting.

Mr Miliband took to the balcony of the County Hotel as Labour leaders of the past have done for decades, watching some of the 80 or so miners' banners and around 50 brass bands parade past.

Afterwards he addressed the large crowd on the Old Racecourse, where he hit out at the bankers, Rupert Murdoch and "the rip-off" of Britain's energy companies.

He listed some of the Labour heroes who have spoken before him at past galas, including Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle. "I am proud to follow in their footsteps," he said. "I am proud to be here today."

Afterwards, he denied he had taken an electoral risk, saying: "The stakes are so high in this country. If you are someone who is looking for work, whose living standards have been squeezed, or someone worried about the NHS you're not thinking why's Ed Miliband going to the Durham Miners' Gala, you are thinking what can Ed Miliband do for me."

David Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners' Gala which organises the event, praised Mr Miliband for venturing into the "lion's den". He has previously branded Labour leaders who declined to come as "jokers" who had insulted the region's heritage.

"The ghost is buried," he said. "It was worth waiting 23 years for that type of reaction. I was impressed (with the speech). I was more impressed with the courage he showed in coming. He came onto the gala field, into the lion's den if you like."

The Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said that by attending the event, Mr Miliband was cosying up to his "militant, left-wing paymasters".

But Mr Miliband said: "When you see people marching past as I did from the balcony of that hotel, a march people have been doing for 140 years, I think that it is not just about politics, it is about the strengths of these communities. The idea that the people here are a bunch of militants, as some of my opponents say, is nonsense."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph