Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn jokes about election and calls for education on workers' rights at Durham Miners' Gala

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Children should learn about trade unions and workers' rights in schools, Jeremy Corbyn said in his speech at the Durham Miners' Gala today.

The Labour leader said youngsters should be "fully equipped" to develop and exercise their rights in the workplace.

In his speech at Durham Racecourse after the parade of banners, he told a crowd of thousands that trade unions have been "marginalised, vilified and undermined", and that children should know about union principles such as collective action and solidarity.

He said: "Children should not only learn about trade unions and their rights at work, but should be fully equipped to exercise and develop those rights.

"Schools need to teach these values and together we can, and will, transform society so it works for the many, not the few."

Related: Thousands turn out for annual Durham Miners’ Gala

Mr Corbyn added: "We know that power in society, and in our workplaces, has become concentrated in the hands of a few, at the expense of everybody else.

"But history shows those at the top have never conceded anything, without it being demanded from people below - things we all enjoy but now take for granted, like weekends and paid holidays."

During the speech, his wife Laura Alvarez unveiled a football-style T-shirt with the word Marras on the front - a nod to the Friends of Durham Miners' Gala group.

Before the speeches, Mr Corbyn watched on from the balcony of the County Hotel as the parade took place below him.

He could be heard jokingly telling a supporter: "This year there will be a general election."

Earlier in the day he called on the government to step aside if it cannot deliver "something approaching an intelligent relationship with Europe" and has said that Labour is "ready" for a general election.

The Labour leader also criticised the Prime Minister for failing to clarify her approach to Brexit, before adding that he would vote against any deal that damages living standards, industry, trade or jobs.

When asked whether he and Mrs May could co-operate on a soft Brexit in the wake of the Chequers agreement, Mr Corbyn said: "She hasn't closed off any of the other options, because within three days of saying that, she goes to meet Donald Trump and then talks about trade arrangements with the USA.

"The USA does not want any European standard of regulation on products or workers' rights and working conditions, they want something very, very different.

"She is not making it very clear what she actually wants at all and the White Paper, I suspect, will unravel as quickly as the Chequers cabinet agreement did."

Mr Corbyn added: "If the government cannot deliver something approaching an intelligent relationship with Europe in the future then quite honestly I think the issue is better dealt with by having a general election to elect a government that can and will both work for jobs and living standards in this country, and have an intelligent relationship with Europe."

Responding to Liam Fox's comments that protesters against US President Donald Trump were an "embarrassment to themselves", Mr Corbyn told the International Trade Secretary to "grow up".

Describing the remarks as "frankly embarrassing", the Labour leader said: "He lives in a democracy where people have a right to free speech, a right to demonstrate and a right to express themselves."