Labour leader calls for unity at Durham Miners' Gala

media captionJeremy Corbyn: "There is no pressure on me"

Under-fire Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for party unity during a speech at the Durham Miners' Gala.

Mr Corbyn, who has faced calls to quit from 170 MPs, is the first Labour leader to attend the trade union gathering since Ed Miliband in 2012.

Rebel MPs were denied access to the gala platform, after organisers said they tried to "humiliate" Mr Corbyn.

During the speech, to a crowd of tens of thousands, Mr Corbyn said there was "no pressure" on him to stand down.

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image captionDozens of banners were paraded through the streets of Durham

The gala or "Big Meeting", which is in its 132nd year, is one of the largest trade union gatherings in Europe.

Mr Corbyn was greeted by cheers as he waved and gave a thumbs up to crowds from the balcony of the city's County Hotel.

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image captionTwo women donned Jeremy Corbyn masks as they walked with their union banner

Organised by the Durham Miners' Association (DMA), it features a parade of union banners through the streets of Durham City before crowds gather at the nearby racecourse for a rally and speeches.

Other speakers at this year's event included veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner and TUC leader Frances O'Grady.

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image captionJeremy Corbyn took his own photos of the parade of banners
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image captionYoungsters dressed as miners for the parade through Durham

Remaining defiant in the face of an impending leadership challenge from former Business Secretary Angela Eagle, Mr Corbyn told the crowd: "There is no pressure on me. The real pressure is when you don't have enough to feed your kids or have a roof over your head."

He added that his landslide win in last year's Labour leadership contest was "a victory for everyone who believes in a really just society, those that believe that socialist ideas and socialism is the way forward. It was people believing things together."

He added: "And I tell you this: I consider it the duty, whoever holds the office of leader of the Labour Party, to be at the Durham Miners' Gala.

"And so, we will all be here together when we have elected a Labour government in Britain."

He said the party was "making a lot of progress" but he remained "very disappointed" at those that resigned from his front bench, adding he had written to them thanking them for their contribution.

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image captionThe route took marchers across the River Wear close to Durham Cathedral
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image captionFormer miner Billy Huitson, 90, entertained crowds at the gala

Some rebel MPs were barred from appearing on the main platform, which Mr Corbyn stressed was the DMA's decision.

DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said: "Labour MPs who refused to support Jeremy Corbyn in the recent vote of confidence have not been banned or barred from attending this year's gala. The gala is a public event which anyone can attend.

"However, the invitations to attend the official Durham Miners' Association events and functions, stand on the balcony of the County Hotel and grace the platform on the racecourse have been rescinded."

He said: "We will not allow those who have sought to humiliate him and undermine the democratic process in the Labour Party the honour of taking part in the aforementioned gala traditions."

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