Miliband first Labour leader in 20 years to attend Durham miners' gala
Ed Miliband, who will speak tomorrow at the TUC's big anti-cuts rally in London, has also accepted an invitation to speak at this year's Durham Miners' Gala (on 9 July).
He'll be the first Labour leader in more than 20 years to speak at the Durham gala, which was once one of the great events in the Labour movement calendar. Even though the Durham coalfield no longer contains any pits, the event still attracts tens of thousands of people to the centre of Durham on the second Saturday in every July.
The city's narrow streets are full of brass bands, miners' union banners, and Durham families enjoying a good day out. In the middle of the afternoon the National Union of Miners (NUM) and political leaders speak at a rally on the Durham Racecourse ground, known as the "big meeting".
The last Labour Party leader to address the Durham miners' annual summer event was Neil Kinnock in 1989. Before then every leader in Labour Party history had attended, either as leader (and PM in Attlee and Wilson's cases), or before they became leader.
And it was politically important that they went, for the Durham miners were once a major force in the land, and especially within Labour politics.
But Tony Blair managed to avoid speaking at the gala during the whole of his 13 years as leader, even though he was MP for a Durham mining seat, had once lived and gone to school in Durham, and regularly used to attend before he became Labour leader. Indeed Blair once described the gala as the "salt of the earth of the Labour movement".
But once he became leader Mr Blair seemed to decide it was too "Old Labour", and not the kind of event with which he wished to be associated. The first year Mr Blair declined to attend, 1995, he was instead preparing to go and visit Rupert Murdoch in Hayman Island in Australia.
The following year, 1996, he and his family used the gala weekend to visit the grand prix at Silverstone as guests of Bernie Ecclestone, who subsequently became a big Labour donor. The symbolism is wonderful!
Durham gala organisers used to invite Tony Blair every year, though with a growing sense of futility. Towards the end of Mr Blair's premiership, they say, he simply stopped bothering to reply to their invitations.
Nor did Gordon Brown ever speak at the gala.
So Ed Miliband looks set to revive an old Labour tradition, though his critics will no doubt say - as with tomorrow's TUC rally - that this shows he's too close to the trade unions, who got him elected Labour leader in the first place.
UPDATE at 1750 GMT:
My old friend Tom Fairbrother pointed out a "logical inconsistency" in an earlier version of this blog. I had mixed up "attending" the gala with actually speaking at it, and so have amended it accordingly.