An historians perspective on Tolpuddle 2018: making that future now

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2018 by kmflett

The annual Tolpuddle Festival, held of course in Tolpuddle a few miles from Dorchester, took place from 20-22 July. As usual it was well organised (by the South-West TUC) well attended and slightly less usually it was very warm throughout.

Like the Durham Miners Gala held the weekend before its a big trade union and socialist event. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Frances O’Grady (TUC) spoke.There were bands, lots of meetings,ice-cream and warm cask beer (far too warm actually but that’s another subject). Or you could just sit around and enjoy the weather and chat with other trade unionists. The festival is child and dog friendly.

The numbers were big and the Sunday march through the village took a while. The usual competition from union bands from traditional brass (RMT, NASUWT)to Samba (UNISON) was there and the sizeable presence from the GMB, Unite & UNISON was also there.

But it wasn’t really about numbers or (great) traditions. It was about building that future now. There was a GMB Amazon workers contingent and USDAW staking claim to represent Marks and Spencer workers (where there is no union recognition).

None of this was the real interest though. This was in the large number of Labour Party banners from south-west locations (not a usual feature). There was the odd grizzled veteran but mostly the banners were being carried by young people..

This its fair to say is the impact of Jeremy Corbyn. He has reached Labour Party organization in parts other leaders could not reach. That could also be seen by the slow progress of the march as it doubled back on itself through the village as the stewards could be heard sighing ‘he’s (Corbyn) stopped again’, The Labour leader was chatting to people going the other way on the march.

That energy needs to be channelled more reliably into union organization too but one of the tools of the historian is to look at a particular moment and try and work out what was or is new about it (see above)


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