Durham and Tolpuddle meetings draw big crowds for IER and CTUF

Rallies held on the Pentonville 5 anniversary and a New Deal for Workers over successive weeks in July

26 Jul 2022| News

Over successive Friday evenings in July, the Insititute of Employment Rights and the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF) held their annual rallies at the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in Dorset. The meetings drew big crowds, with both the Town Hall in Durham and the Methodist Chapel, being packed out. 

Durham – Eve of Gala Rally (8th July)

In the beautiful surroundings of Durham Town Hall, the gathered crowd listened to contributions from Karen Reay, Unite NEYH Regional Secretary, Laura Pidcock of the People’s Assembly, John Hendy QC, Jo Grady of the UCU union, Barry Gardiner MP and Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, who received a standing ovation on entering the hall.

Outlining the history of the Pentonville 5, Jo Grady talked about the historical lessons that could be learned from their imprisonment and struggle: “From the Pentonville 5 to the covid pandemic, not a single thing of value happens in this country happens without the working class”

Barry Gardiner, remarking that he was proud to be Mick Lynch’s” warm up act”, went on to criticise the Tory Government’s response to fire and rehire and the increasingly precarious nature of work: “The Tories say this is what the employment market looks like when it’s “flexible”. I say it’s what it looks like when it’s f…”

Laura Pidcock, looking back at her time as Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Right’s said: “We spent hundreds of hours imagining what an Industrial Relations Bill would look like. That is still there…We must remember for ever what [our defeat] felt like & make sure that it never, ever happens again.”

The IER’s John Hendy QC drew comparisons between the position of workers in the 1970’s and the present day: “Working people have lost power, they’ve lost strength. In the 1970s, the proportion of workers who benefitted from a collective agreement was around 80%. Now, it stands at just over 20%, one-in-five workers.”

The RMT’s Mick Lynch pointed out that the issues were quite simple – but union’s had to stop apologising: “What we’ve been doing for too long is apologising for the fact that there is a union. We’ve got to stop that…We’ve got to make people the part of the union & the union part of the people.”

Tolpuddle – (15th July)

The following Friday, Tolpuddle’s Methodist Chapel was similarly packed out to hear John McDonnell MP, Professor Keith Ewing, the FBU’s Val Hampshire, Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of BFAWU and Steve Preddy of Unite South West.


A full house listened as the speakers outlined the history of the Pentonville 5, marking the 50th Anniversary of their jailing and subsequent campaign to release them, and the New Deal for Workers. John McDonnell received a massive round of applause, as he talked about the 2 million people living in technically defined destitution, alongside the many millions living in poverty, and described the transformation needed to reverse decades of the dimunition of trade union power.