SIR Keir Starmer is due to confirm his support for Durham Miners’ Gala later today in a specially recorded video message.

The Labour Party leader is taking part in the online version of the Big Meeting, which was cancelled this year due to the ongoing health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 136th Big Meeting was expected to attract up 200,000 people to Durham City, but will instead be streamed to supporters by organisers at Durham Miners’ Association.

In his message Sir Keir says: “Durham Miners’ Gala is a celebration of community, working class culture and solidarity.

“This year’s event has, of course, sadly been put on hold as we come together to defeat coronavirus, in the hope that we will be able to return bigger and better next year.

“We’re drawing on the spirit of the Gala to defeat the virus.

“The trade unionists who have such a proud history of coming together to protect their jobs, their industries and their communities.

“That is why I’m proud to be a Marra.”

Those who contribute to the event through subscriptions are known as ‘Marras’, a Durham miners’ term for a workmate or friend.

For more than a century, the Gala was funded by the miners of the Durham coalfield, but when the pits closed, the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala was established to ensure the survival of the event.

The event is usually a busy day for city centre landlords but, despite the reopening of pubs, organisers of the Gala have asked people not to flood into Durham.

Supporters of the Gala are being encouraged to use social media to post their own messages and favourite photos from previous years throughout the day, using the hashtag #DurhamMinersGala.

The centrepiece of the online event, titled The Second Saturday in July, will be streamed to Facebook and YouTube at 1pm.

Sir Keir says the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated how crucial working people are to the buoyancy of the economy.

He says: “Coronavirus has shown the strength in our communities.

“It has shown that our economy depends on the essential workers who have kept our country going.

“It is many of you and your families who have been on the frontline: in our hospitals, our shops, our care homes, keeping schools open for the children of key workers and in so many other jobs that have been undervalued and underpaid for too long.

“We must draw on the spirit of the Gala to ensure your jobs and industries are protected as we emerge from this crisis.

“We will always remember the Gala motto: the past we inherit, the future we build.”