Durham County Council’s Teaching Assistants will strike again this week, on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th November. Theirs is the most important industrial dispute in Britain today. When was the last time that two thousand people in this country went on strike, and that twice in three weeks? They face being sacked at Christmas, and reappointed on a 23 per cent pay cut. Meanwhile, the Council has written off its loan to Durham County Cricket Club, which provides the most powerful Councillors and Officers with a private box.
Durham County Council was the first local authority of which Labour ever won Overall Control. That has never been lost, in more than 100 years. The Labour Group on that authority is the largest in local government. But that Council is now the Mike Ashley of the public sector, and the twenty-first century version of Margaret Thatcher’s National Coal Board. This coming May, it can be, and it should be, taken to No Overall Control.
Very large numbers of Labour Councillors have absented themselves from the votes on this issue. But enough of them have attended to ensure that the Teaching Assistants have been betrayed. The Councillors, all of them Labour, who have thus voted ought all to lose their seats to whoever was best placed to remove them, very preferably activists in the Teaching Assistants’ remarkable campaign. The Liberal Democrats and the Independents have been, and remain, stalwart supporters of the Teaching Assistants. Therefore, they deserve to be re-elected. That leaves only the Labour absentees, plus a mere four Conservatives who all sit for two adjacent wards.
Whoever the new Leader and Deputy Leader of Durham County Council were to be, they must not be members of the Labour Party. The Teaching Assistants’ flag, which is now ubiquitous in County Durham, must fly from County Hall every day for the following four years, at least.
This victory will rank alongside the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London in 2000, the election of George Galloway (a strong supporter of the Durham Teaching Assistants) as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005, Galloway’s election as MP for Bradford West in 2012, the election of Jeremy Corbyn (another strong supporter of the Durham Teaching Assistants) as Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, Corbyn’s re-election as Leader of the Labour Party in 2016, and his election as Prime Minister in 2020.
David Lindsay, 2017 council candidate and 2020 parliamentary candidate, Lanchester, County Durham; @davidaslindsayGeorge Galloway, former Member of Parliament for Glasgow Hillhead (1987-1997), Glasgow Kelvin (1997-2005), Bethnal Green and Bow (2005-2010), Bradford West (2012-2015); @georgegalloway
James Draper, writer, broadcaster and activist, Lanchester, County Durham
John Mooney, writer, broadcaster and activist, Lurgan, County Armagh; @FitzjamesHorse
Adam Young, writer, broadcaster and activist, Burnopfield, County Durham; @JustALocalSerf