PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has said it is “sad, and surprising” that Conservative MPs will not be invited to Durham Miners’ Gala this summer.

It is understood no Tory MPs have ever attended the annual event, which is one of the largest socialist gatherings in Europe and attracts 200,000 people to the city.

But yesterday some of the newly-elected Conservative MPs in the region said they would like attend, despite a warning there would be concerns for their safety.

Alan Mardghum, secretary of Durham Miners’ Association, which organises the event, said he would ‘rather be dead in a ditch than invite Conservative MPs’.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: “I thought it was quite surprising, sad and surprising, that the president of the Durham Miners’ Gala should the other day say that Conservative MPs are not welcome.

“I hope my right honourable friend, the leader of the opposition, will strongly disassociate himself strongly with those remarks.”

The Northern Echo:

Alan Mardghum 

Outgoing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has spoken at the Big Meeting for the past few years, did not respond to the Prime Minister.

The Durham Miners’ Gala, which dates back to 1871, has always been aligned politically with the labour movement.

As well as being a family, community-orientated day out, it is somewhere trade unionists and Labour MPs address the crowds with left wing speeches.

Mr Johnson was responding to a question from Conservative MP Sarah Dines about quarrying in the Peak District, and what Brexit meant for workers in her area.

She ended by asking: “Doesn’t this show the Conservatives are the party of the working people?”

Mr Johnson replied: “She is quite right that we speak for the working people.”

Last month, the Conservative landslide election victory redefined the political landscape of former mining communities across the North-East, in Yorkshire and the Midlands.

During a visit to Sedgefield, the day after the result was announced Mr Johnson pledged to repay people in former Labour heartlands who had backed the Tories.

The Northern Echo:

Crowds flock through the streets to attend the Big Meeting 

Mr Johnson also said, when asked about Durham Miners’ Gala, that he himself, would ‘do his utmost’ to be there.

Asked if he would attend, he replied: “I wish I could. When is it?”