Durham Miners' Gala: Jeremy Corbyn rallies support for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowds at Durham Miners' Gala. Picture: Press Association.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowds at Durham Miners' Gala. Picture: Press Association.

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A defiant Jeremy Corbyn addressed tens of thousands of supporters at the Durham Miners' Gala and vowed to return as prime minister.

The embattled Labour leader, who faces a challenge to his position on Monday from former shadow cabinet minister Angela Eagle, stressed the importance of unity as he was given a warm reception from supporters at the event.

Jeremy Corbyn at Durham Miners' Gala. Picture: Press Association.

Jeremy Corbyn at Durham Miners' Gala. Picture: Press Association.

He insisted there was "no pressure" on him - instead highlighting the "brutal" conditions faced by many workers on low wages and those struggling in poverty.

Addressing the event, one of the central fixtures of the Labour movement's calendar, Mr Corbyn said: "There's a lot of debate about what's happening in the Labour Party at the present time and I'm inundated with questions, questions, questions all the time and I have patience that is infinite to answer questions, questions and questions.

"But one I got today really did puzzle me. They said 'how are you coping with the pressure that's on you'. I simply said this: "There is no pressure on me, none whatsoever.

"Real pressure - real pressure - is when you don't have enough money to feed your kids, when you don't have a roof over your head, when you are wondering if you are going to be cared for, when you are wondering how you can survive, you are wondering how you are going to cope with the debts you have incurred, you are wondering if your lovely employer is going to give you a call to give you a couple of hours work or not bother, or change their mind when you are on the bus on the way to do that job.

The Labour leader has spoken at the Gala, in Durham, today. Picture: Press Association.

The Labour leader has spoken at the Gala, in Durham, today. Picture: Press Association.

"That is the real pressure in our society."

The gala, know as the Big Meeting, is billed as the biggest annual trade union event in the UK but has had a chequered relationship with previous Labour leaders.

Ed Miliband attended once during his tenure and Tony Blair never made it to the gala during his 13 years in charge.

Mr Corbyn told supporters at the event his landslide win in last year's Labour leadership contest was "a victory for everyone who believes in a really just society, those that believe that socialist ideas and socialism is the way forward. It was people believing things together".

"Durham Supports Jeremy Corbyn". Picture: Press Association.

"Durham Supports Jeremy Corbyn". Picture: Press Association.

"And I tell you this: I consider it the duty, whoever holds the office of leader of the Labour Party, to be at the Durham Miners' Gala.

"And so, we will all be here together when we have elected a Labour government in Britain."

In a passionate and wide-ranging speech, Mr Corbyn hit out at the "social cleansing" which had resulted from the Government's welfare policies, and warned about minorities becoming scapegoats.

He also singled out Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, saying at the firm's main Shirebrook warehouse there were "people not even getting the minimum wage, hundreds on zero hours contracts and grotesque levels of danger and exploitation".

Do you support the Labour leader? Picture: Press Association.

Do you support the Labour leader? Picture: Press Association.

Mr Corbyn also told the activists at the Big Meeting that an inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the miners' strike "must and will take place".

He defended his anti-austerity agenda and the focus on tackling poverty: "People tell me that Labour will be very appealing when it stops talking about these kind of things and starts talking about something else.

"I just say this, on a moral point: if you are well housed and you have got a reasonable job and you are kind of doing OK, is anyone actually comfortable stepping over a homeless person sleeping in the street on a doorstep outside your home?

"Are you comfortable seeing people who should be given care and support through a mental health service that often lets them down when they should be supported?

"Are we comfortable when we know there is sufficient to go around but there isn't sufficient to assuage the greed of the very rich? Are we comfortable with that in our society? You and I know the answer to that."

Corbyn appears on the balcony. Picture: Press Association.

Corbyn appears on the balcony. Picture: Press Association.

The scene in Durham today. Picture: Press Association.

The scene in Durham today. Picture: Press Association.