Huge numbers attending largest labour movement event in Europe is yet more evidence of the resilience of trade unions. Daniel Cockroft reports

Durham Miners

In the thick of such a large event as Durham’s annual Miners’ Gala it is impossible to estimate numbers. But the local BBC radio station reports and astonishing 100,000 people attended Europe’s biggest labour movement festival.

Trade unionists and socialists travelled from as far as southern England to join local people from the old Durham coalfields, to take part in the march, rally and celebration of working class culture and history. As is traditional, dozens of brass bands were part of the march through Durham City in the 127th Durham Miners’ Gala.

One of the most striking things was the age range of those taking part, which included a large representation from young people, many handing out leaflets and running stalls, and some carrying banners. Coalition of Resistance supporters earned a warm response for the message of ‘no cuts’, a major theme of the day also expressed by trade union delegations such as a lively PCS contingent.

The occasional downpours didn’t dampen people’s spirits. The gala kept its carnival atmosphere throughout.

Speakers included RMT leader Bob Crow, who called for all energy companies to brought back into public ownership, and Len McCluskey of Unite who warned the government not push the trade unions into illegal action with more draconian anti union laws. He lambasted Labour leader Ed Milband for bottling out and not appearing on the same platform as Crow, a source of controversy ahead of this year’s Gala.

The biggest ovation was given to former miner and veteran left-wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who reminded everyone of the Labour Party’s origins and mocked Cameron’s background and education at Eton, saying” That man has been educated beyond his intelligence”.

Skinner also commented on a “pendulum swing” in politics following this week’s News International revelations, with Cameron’s connections to the disgraced Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooke damaging the Tories. He said it’s imperative that we keep up pressure and “kick them as long and as far as possible”