‘They might close our pits, but they won’t destroy our culture’ - Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pays tribute to Durham Miners’ Gala organisers

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John McDonnell says he is 'amazed but not surprised' by the continued success of the Durham Gala

The Shadow Chancellor has been a regular visitor to the Big Meet since the 1970s and is back for tomorrow's event.

The continuing popularity of the Gala was a tribute to the determination of the organisers, he said: "I am amazed but not surprised because of the commitment that there was from the miners, from the NUM, that we would not lose our tradition.

"They might close our pits but they are not going to destroy our culture, so as a result of the stalwarts that have essentially held the line and kept the festival going, it's a tribute to them - the Davey Hoppers of this world and others.

"Over the years, in the most difficult times, when money was short and it was difficult organising events like this, they kept at it and I think they have preserved something we will always have now.

"I always say we discovered a secret at the beginning of the industrial revolution, that was in the workshops, in the mines and in the fields and that was a secret which we put on our banners - ‘Unity is Strength.’ Injury to one is an injury to all.

John McDonnell

John McDonnell

“What the gala does is it gives us a time we can come together yes, to celebrate our history but celebrate the principles of solidarity and most importantly, put them into practice."

Tomorrow's Gala will include a demonstration against the visit to the UK by U.S.President Donald Trump.

There were major protests today: "My only regret about coming is that I am not on the demonstration down in London," said Mr McDonnell.

"I would not have invited him here. Of course we want a working relationship with the U.S. administration, including the President. We have to recognise the democratic rights of the American people to elect who they want to represent them and we will work with whoever but I would not have invited him here because he is using this to enhance his status.

"We wanted the Prime Minister to be absolutely straight with him in terms of condemning some of his policies that he is advocating - the way he has treated children on the Mexican border in particular, and also his belligerent approach to some of the minorities, not just within his own country but abroad as well

"We have also been extremely concerned about the trade war he seems to be developing at the moment and the impact that will have on working people, not just in this country but right across the globe including in America itself.

"This is no way to develop a prosperous economy, either in America or elsewhere.

"With regard to what he said at NATO, we are abiding by the two per cent investment that is needed for defence of our country and we want to make sure it is properly expended and efficiently and effectively expended

"But our belief is that the way in which you pursue international affairs is on the basis of conflict prevention and conflict resolution, it is not a belligerence that at times Donald Trump has shown."