STEPHEN HEPBURN: Marking 80 years since famous march

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

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Mention you’re from Jarrow to anyone outside of the area and the odds are they’ll ask you about the most famous march in the world.

If I had a pound for everyone who jokingly asked if I walked to London after learning I have the honour of representing the town and everybody who lives in the constituency of that name, I’d be richer than Simon Cowell.

This year we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the legendary 1936 Jarrow Crusade with a huge event at Monkton Stadium on Saturday (11am) when the star speaker will be Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s re-elected leader.

He’s someone who is passionate about the past, present and future of the working people of our country so Jeremy knows the significance of the crusade when 200 jobless men trekked 300 miles to London to plead for work.

One of my predecessors as Labour MP for Jarrow, Ellen Wilkinson, marched with them and the aim was quite simply to lobby the Tory Government to bring work back to Jarrow.

The town had already been hit hard during the Great Depression but when Palmer’s shipyard closed, a staggering 70% of Jarrow men – seven in every 10 – were left unemployed.

The degrading poverty and utter desolation brought about by no work and no pay, living in overcrowded slums, would’ve destroyed the spirit of a community less resilient than ours.

Instead we fought back and 80 years on the famous Jarrow Crusade from the town to Marble Arch in London continues to inspire people all over the globe.

We should be proud of that and take strength from it today when struggling for higher wages and better jobs.

Back then when the marchers arrived in London, Wilkinson handed over the petition signed by nearly 12,000 Jarrovians to Parliament. It was a plea for work. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet disgracefully the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the Tory Theresa May of his day, refused to meet with any of the marchers’ representatives and in truth the crusade achieved little in the short term.

Many returned home to find the pittance that was their dole money had been cut because they hadn’t been available to work – despite no work existing to be had!

It took rearmament and war to defeat Hitler’s Nazis to revive Jarrow with the Royal Navy requiring ships and the armed forces all sorts of military equipment.

And when Labour’s Clement Attlee trounced Winston Churchill’s Tories in the 1945 election, a crusading Labour Government laid the foundations of a decent welfare state, created the NHS and built houses.

May’s Tories have no idea about what life’s like for working people and it’s scary how they’re rewinding the clock to the bad old days, insecurity a new curse when millions of workers don’t know how many hours they’ll do in a week and how much they’ll be paid.

Jeremy gets all this and I’m delighted Labour’s going back to its roots by offering a bold alternative with our party now the biggest in Europe.

So come along this Saturday and you’ll hear why we need Jeremy not just as leader of the Labour Party but the next Prime Minister of our country.

He would’ve supported the Jarrow Crusade 80 years ago and stands with us in 2016.

For anyone who still wishes to be there entry to the event is only allowed via wristbands which are on sale for £3 per person from Councillor Audrey Huntley on 07934463548 or via email at tickets4jarrowcrusade@gmail.com

With relatives from the original marchers present, live music provided by popular bands such as the Gaslighters, and a funfair for families, it promises to be a fantastic day.

See you there!