SUNSHINE had broken through the clouds by the time Jeremy Corbyn addressed the party faithful at The Big Meeting, but it was a local woman who stole the limelight earlier on.

Despite driving rain, North-West Durham MP Laura Pidcock gave a barnstorming speech, electrifying the tens of thousands of sodden socialists with powerful oratory.

She railed against the prospect of Johnson-led Government, stressing the importance of a unified opposition at the 135th Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday afternoon.

Ms Pidcock said: “Thatcher’s neo-liberal free market dogma reveals fresh wounds every single day and with the blink of an eye through clever legislation and the propaganda of the papers and the greed of the powerful they have sucked the colour out of our communities.

“So many of our schools have been sold off from under our noses, huge chunks of the NHS have been gifted to vultures who could not care less about the health our mothers, our fathers, our children.

“People are being paid less and less to work more and more. Exploitation is so commonplace it is invisible.

“Disillusion, disappointment haunt our communities.”

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The 31-year-old dedicated her speech to late father, Bernard Pidcock, who passed away five months ago and said he had been her inspiration and her closest comrade.

Durham Miners’ Gala dates, which dates back to 1871 and is the largest gathering of trade unionists in Europe, was said to be his favourite day of the year.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, urged the labour movement to not ‘let the chance slip’ and to prepare for a Corbyn-led Labour government.

He said: “At a moment of national crisis, our next prime minister is not going to be chosen by the British people, but by a reactionary rag tag brigade of Tories, entirely unrepresentative of the country.

“They will foist on the rest of us a man who’s shown utter indifference to the de-industrialisation of cities and towns in the North-East and across the country, and such contempt for working class people and the poverty forced on them by his party’s austerity programme, that he’s pledged tax reductions for the rich.

“Here in the North-East, there are more working people in low-paid, zero-hour, caring, hospitality and other precarious jobs than elsewhere in the country.”

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Turning to Brexit, McCluskey railed against those who divided the people of the country by simplistic labels instead of understanding the desire for change.

He said: “I reject this new division of the country into ‘Remainers’ and ‘Leavers’.

“I reject the call for a culture war pitting the big cities against the rest. I reject a choice between Nigel Farage on the one hand and the City of London on the other.

“It is only Jeremy Corbyn who seeks to bring this country together. And it is only Jeremy Corbyn who will stand up for this country, instead of toadying to Trump and blundering into more disastrous wars.”

Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey completed the roll call of high profile female speakers, while the crowds also heard from Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, Dave Ward, general secretary of The Communications Union, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union and Doug Nicholls, general secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions.

The heavens opened as the speeches got underway but, in typical British fashion, umbrellas were produced and the crowd did not let it dampen their enthusiasm.

People had travelled from all over the country, and waited all year for this, they were not about to let the rain spoil it.

Click here to see how events unfolded thoughout the day

Earlier in the day villagers from pit communities carrying pit banners aloft marched to sound of traditional brass band music from the Market Place to the Racecourse.

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As dignitaries stood on the balcony at The County Hotel, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did media interviews in the beer garden.

Here, he got his first taste of heckling as one man shouted at him through the railings, accusing Labour of covering up the ‘scandal’ of 5G.

His exact meaning was not clear.

It was dismissed with an irritable, ‘yeah, alright mate I’ve got the message’.

Later, in an interview with The Northern Echo, Corbyn said he wanted to unite rival factions on the left bitterly divided over Brexit.

He said: “I am trying to bring people together over this.

“I have listened and we have said we would vote against any no deal and then put any proposal that is put to parliament as a public vote with remain as an option.

“Ultimately, it would be a public choice and it is not re-run of 2016. We have got to move forward with this.”

On stage, from Corbyn, it was fighting talk.

Well, he had just come on to the theme tune from Rocky.

Responding to further criticism following the Panorama documentary exposing antisemitism in the party earlier in the week he said racism of ‘any kind’ would not be tolerated.

He reiterated his pledge to create 400,000 skilled jobs with a ‘green industrial revolution’ to tackle climate change and redress the balance of the North-South economic divide.

Earlier in the speech there were a handful of separate incidents where people were shouting at him.

A woman called him a traitor, while the man repeatedly shouted Soldier F, a reference to the British military man facing murder charges over the killing of two people during the Bloody Sunday deaths in Londonderry in 1972.

Both were led away peacefully by stewards from the Durham Miners Association and Corbyn, seemingly unfazed by the disturbance was allowed to continue.

Now the rain had stopped.

The clouds, both metaphorically and literally, had parted and crowd the began to enjoy the sunshine.

This is what they had come for.

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He said: “The programme Labour offers is to bring about a redistribution of power and wealth, to ring about a decent future.

“To bring about an end to the privileges of the few in order to advance the need of the many.

“I want to lead a Government that will transform society and will offer real hope to the next generation.”

Click here to read Jeremy Corbyn's feature article written exclusively for the Northern Echo