ONE of the most famous Labour politicians outside of Parliament is looking forward to speaking to the 126th Durham Miners’ Gala today.

“Red” Ken Livingstone, who was the elected Mayor of London for eight years, is the main speaker at the event, which is the biggest gathering of its kind in the country.

Mr Livingstone, who has also served as an MP and hopes to win the 2012 mayoral election, was, like the officials of the Durham Miners’ Association, a critic of the last Labour government.

Of his gala debut, he said: “It is almost like a Royal Command Performance for the Labour movement. I have been to it before, but I have never been a speaker.

“I will be talking about what we need to do to get our Labour government re-elected.’’ Left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and the assistant general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Chris Baugh, are also among the speakers.

The speeches are due to start at about 12.30pm.

The parade will start at about 8.30am and will feature 70 union banners – mining and non-mining – and more than 40 bands from across the North.

Four banners – Chilton, Sacriston, Usworth, and Eldon Drift – will be blesssed at a Durham Cathedral service at 3pm. There will be music and a funfair throughout the day.

■ Organisers of the gala took the unusual step yesterday of confirming that the event would take place as normal after internet rumours that it would not take place.

David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “Certain social networking sites have been stating that the 2010 Durham Miners’ Gala has been cancelled.

“We would like to make it clear that these rumours are totally unfounded.”