A CHANCE encounter between Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and a South Tyneside pensioner could boost a long-running campaign by nuclear test veterans.
Mr Miliband was on the campaign trail in his older brother David’s former South Shields constituency yesterday, when he was introduced to atom bomb campaigner John Taylor.
Mr Taylor, 76, is one of 1,000 ex-servicemen who were exposed to radiation during British nuclear weapon tests in the Pacific in the 1950s, while wearing little or no protective clothing.
The veterans, who claim radiation sparked medical problems, which have been passed on to their families, saw their case thrown out by the Supreme Court in London last year.
But Mr Taylor, who had hoped David Miliband would champion their cause before his recent resignation as South Shields MP, hopes his younger brother will now take up the fight.
Mr Taylor, of Carnegie Close, South Shields, chanced upon Mr Miliband as the Labour leader was supporting the candidacy of South Shields MP contender Emma Lewell-Buck, ahead of the by-election on Thursday, May 2.
He said: “My wife, Mary, and I happened to be shopping in King Street, when who should appear but Ed Miliband.
“One of his assistants came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to meet Mr Miliband?’
“I said, ‘I certainly would like to meet him,’ and I told him about the veterans’ campaign and how I’d written to his brother, David, before Christmas.
“Ed Miliband asked me if the tests had affected me and I told him how they had affected me and my family.
“He then asked me to write to him and said he would do what he could.”
Before his resignation, David Miliband had agreed to meet Mr Taylor and a solicitor from London legal firm Rosenblatt, which is representing the veterans, in a meeting in South Shields.
The aim was to have the borough MP and former Foreign Secretary speaking up for the veterans in Parliament.
Mr Taylor added: “Meeting Ed Miliband in South Shields was a pure accident, but I will be writing to him and hope he can help us with our campaign.”
Between July and September 1957, Mr Taylor witnessed three nuclear explosions as part of Operation Antler, while serving as a leading aircraftman with the RAF in Maralinga, Australia.
Mr Taylor hopes the veterans’ fight could eventually be heard at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.