LAST month saw the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike. A brutal, callous and unjust attack on working-class communities across the country, including those in Durham and the North East, by a Conservative government. (Some things never change.)

Many people in the North East have bitter memories of that year and the aftermath. I sympathise with them. After all, how could a British government leave our communities, which were once full of life and solidarity, in a state of despair and disrepair?

And how could they have done this without any plan, without any reparations, without any transition for the miners’ and their families?

How could they have done this?

Similar questions can be levelled at today’s Tory administration. According to the North East Child Poverty Commission, more than one third of all babies, children and young people in the North East are living in poverty. The majority of them are from working families. Forty years on, it’s the same old class war from the Conservative Party.

There was no offer of economic redress in the recent Budget, either. While the Chancellor ploughed money into London, Durham didn’t even get mentioned. Neither did child poverty.

Ministers just don’t care about our county.

In Parliament, I’ve called on the Government to launch a public inquiry into the miners’ strike, one that must include the events of Orgreave. I’ve demanded a full pardon for miners who were wrongfully convicted during the strike, too.

I’ve also paid tribute to Women Against Pit Closures, especially those in the North East, for their fortitude, resilience and solidarity throughout the strike because, without them, the strike wouldn’t have lasted as long.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with miners, women in County Durham were feeding up to a thousand people a day, five days a week. They provided childcare and food during the school holidays, organising trips away and toys for the children in the Christmas of 1984. They assisted people with their household bills and provided emotional support when things got tough – as they so often did. It was truly heroic work, all done on a shoestring, all done in the spirit of working-class solidarity.

Women were involved in the politics of the strike and the politics of the community. The empowerment that came with industrial action saw women across the county, and the country, becoming political activists, councillors, mayors and even MPs.

I was reminded of this heroic effort when I joined Women Against Pit Closures on their 40th anniversary march through the City of Durham last month.

It was inspiring to be among women from across the former coalfields, across the generations and across the labour movement. What struck me was that, today, women aren’t just supporting striking workers on the picket line, they’re leading them.

Not only that but women have been behind the first sustained rise in trade union membership since 1979.

So, this year, I encourage all readers to join me at the Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday, July 13, to celebrate the Women Against Pit Closures and remember the events of 1984 to 1985 on the 40th anniversary of the strike.

Let’s make it the best – and biggest – gala in history.

  • Mary Kelly Foy is the Labour MP for the City of Durham