Tribute to the martyrs; Tolpuddle festival
3000 to 5000 people at this years Tolpuddle Festival, difficult to judge as it
sprawls into the village pubs,. Around 1500 marched through the village, and I
always enjoy those official movement demos with Labour party and national union
banners - including for small unions you have never heard of. Turnout better
than last few years, and the event is growing in popularity, yesterday no doubt
helped by the glorious weather. Lots of friendly faces and the opportunity to
catch up with old friends. Actually the age distribution was very wide, with
many younger trade union activists there, some with their children.
The local primary school children from Puddletown had a good delegation, in
their little uniforms, and some of them are related to the martyrs. They had
written a moving song and joined Billy Bragg on stage for the finale. They had
also made a banner, and been asked what one word they though summed up the
issue, and they had decided on RESPECT ,and made a banner using the Respect
multi-coloured graffiti logo! Which they then brought and put behind Billy Bragg
on stage. You could only laugh.
Not a very multi-racial participation, but not surprising as the main turn out
is from the south west. Good turn out from the national unions, and free food
for GMB members. A good mix of music styles, and good stalls. The Cuba
Solidarity Campaign stall was doing a lot of business and Che Guevara T-shirts
selling like hot cakes. I wonder if there is a demand for Hugo Chavez T-shirts?
maybe next year.
Very strangely there was a UKIP banner on the march, the characterisation of
UKIP as BNP in suits does seem wide of the mark, and the consensus amongst the
people I spoke to is that UKIP are mainly stupid. Organisers took down the UKIP
banner when it was displayed at the arena though.
Jerry Hicks (AEEU convenor at Rolls Royce Filton, SWP member, very good
militant, Amicus exec) has been sacked by the way. I had a short chat with him
This is a serious attack on union organisation, and I'm not sure how Amicus will
respond. Amicus members in Swindon already had a solidarity petition on our
coach, so there has been some take up of the issue.
Socialist Party and AWL both had stalls, as well as the SWP. Bookmarks were
lucky to have their stall in the beer tent! Workers Fight/ Lutte Ouvriere seemed
to have put a big effort into it on the day, but a few of their comrades were
French and I got the impression that they didn't know anyone there. Unlike the
SWP and SP who seemed to have friendly relations with a lot of the trade
unionists No one selling the Morning star at all - although the GMB had produced
a leaflet out of the Morning Star front page, advertising their battle with the
AA, no-one was handing it out.