The Durham Miner’s Gala is always an important event in the labour movement’s calendar. Its been good in recent years to hear the Labour Leader talking live and speaking to you along with your comrades up here in the once industrial and often ignored North of England. But its not just the shared space of speeches, beautiful banners and of course those confident and loud brassy – brass bands. Its the immersion in the culture of the Gala day – one that recognises itself as live, authentic and intensely political that does it. In an everyday sort of way. It brings out the best in us.
Hexham CLP had been chatting this Gala Day – not all the time and thankfully not all at once – about numerous political issues. A recurring theme was the nature of Labour’s culture and political direction. For many of us who became active in the party with the rise of Corbyn, the culture of the Labour movement and its political direction is of primary importance. It goes like this: winning elections is of course important but there must be more to this new Labour political culture and direction than simply supporting individuals into positions of power. Even when they are as nice, successful and evidently electable as Jamie Driscoll. The new left wing politics – the argument goes – should be about speaking out ourselves and acting within our communities, making comrades of some we would not usually think of as such. Being confident and constructive but making demands. Doing it ourselves – not leaving it to elected representatives.
And then Laura Pidcock stands on the stage in front of you and like a modern day Shelley – political and poetic, says these words:
‘Take your anger, take your pain and your frustration, and take your deep, deep dissatisfaction with this system and occupy every single space with your politics without embarrassment, without hesitation and without fear. Because there is nothing more important than this political project.’