Addressing the 135th Durham Miners’ Gala today (Saturday 13 July), Len McCluskey the general secretary of Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, urged the labour movement ‘don't let this chance slip’, prepare for a Corbyn-led Labour government.

With the prospect of a Boris Johnson government in under two weeks, promising tax cuts for the better off but turning a blind eye to the harm caused by Tory austerity, working people and their communities need the hope of real change that can only come with Labour in power.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “When I last spoke here I couldn’t help but burst into song, just weeks after we came so close to winning a Labour government. ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ was the tune then. Two years on and it looks like we’ll be fighting another general election within months. And the same tune is on my lips. I haven’t lost my belief.

“Theresa May will be gone and Boris Johnson will be prime minister in less than a fortnight. I was thinking of making a joke about Boris here, but there’s absolutely nothing funny about him. In fact, the joke is on us.

“At a moment of national crisis, our next prime minister is not going to be chosen by the British people, but by a reactionary rag tag brigade of Tories, entirely unrepresentative of the country. They will foist on the rest of us a man who’s shown utter indifference to the de-industrialisation of cities and towns in the North East and across the country, and such contempt for working class people and the poverty forced on them by his party’s austerity programme, that he’s pledged tax reductions for the rich.

“Here in the North East, there are more working people in low-paid, zero-hour, caring, hospitality and other precarious jobs than elsewhere in the country.

“And let’s be clear here – these problems arose while Britain was in the European Union and they will not be solved either by leaving or remaining on their own. The issue is what sort of government we have here in Britain, whether it puts the people first or is enslaved by neo-liberal dogma.”

Turning to Brexit, McCluskey railed against those who divided the people of the country by simplistic labels instead of understanding the desire for change: “I reject this new division of the country into ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’. I reject the call for a culture war pitting the big cities against the rest. I reject a choice between Nigel Farage on the one hand and the City of London on the other.

“It is only Jeremy Corbyn who seeks to bring this country together. And it is only Jeremy Corbyn who will stand up for this country, instead of toadying to Trump and blundering into more disastrous wars.

“Two years ago was a vindication for everyone who stood by Jeremy and by our radical manifesto, a fantastic new vision for our country. We gave people the chance to believe that another world really is possible. We gave them hope.

“People still want a better future for themselves and their children, decent secure jobs with an end to the scandalous abuse of agency labour. We cannot – must not – let this chance slip.”

ENDS

For more information please contact Pauline Doyle Unite director of communications and campaigns on 07976 832861 or pauline.doyle@unitetheunion.org or Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 alex.flynn@unitetheunion.org

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.