Labour leader Ed Miliband addresses Durham Miners' Gala

Ed Miliband: "We said we would never go back to those days but that is what is happening"

Ed Miliband has become the first Labour leader for 23 years to address the Durham Miners' Gala.

Mr Miliband praised the event as "a great North East tradition" and attacked the government, saying it had "lost a generation of young people".

The last Labour leader to speak at the gala was Neil Kinnock in 1989.

Conservative Party co-chairman Lady Warsi said Mr Miliband was using the event "to cosy up to his militant, left-wing union paymasters."

'Rich and poor'

Mr Miliband received a warm welcome on the balcony of Durham's County Hotel ahead of his speech at the 128th Big Meeting.

He watched some of the 80 or so miners' banners and around 50 brass bands parade past before making his speech at Durham's racecourse ground.

He said: "Community. Looking out for each other. Never walking by on the other side. These are the value of the people of Durham. These are the values of the people of the North East. These are also the values of the British people."

He listed some of the notable Labour politicians who have spoken before him at past galas, including Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle.

"I am proud to follow in their footsteps," he said. "I am proud to be here today."

Mr Miliband accused the government of cutting taxes for rich and allowing banks to continue business as usual.

He said the next Labour government would "tax the bankers' bonuses and get young people working again".

He continued: "A few years ago the Tories tried to say 'we're all in it together'. But now we know they never meant it. Because we have seen what they do when they get back in power.

Analysis

For years, the name, the guest list and the history of the Durham Miners' Gala were out of step with the sensibilities of many in New Labour.

The array of trades union banners, its brass bands and its left-wing speakers put off the leaders of a party desperate to change its image and appeal to floating voters, and not just its core supporters.

John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown never attended the event as party leader, breaking a tradition that could be traced back to Keir Hardie's address in 1905.

"One rule for those at the top and another rule for everybody else. They cut taxes for millionaires and they raise taxes on pensioners. It's business as usual in the banks, and small businesses go under.

"They try and divide our country between rich and poor. Between North and South. Same old Tories.

"Not building for the future but ripping up the foundations. Not healing our country, but harming it. Not uniting our country, but dividing it," he said.

Baroness Warsi said Mr Miliband's appearance marked a return to the past.

"By breaking 23 years of silence from the Labour leadership at the Durham Miners' Gala, Ed Miliband is handing his party back to Kinnock," she said.

"Red Ed is using the Durham Miners' Gala to cosy up to his militant, left-wing union paymasters.

"He's still driving the Labour Party away from the centre ground of British politics."

Other speakers at the event included Labour MP Tom Watson, the GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny and Mark Serwotka from the Public and Commercial Services Union.

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