Friends and comrades!
It’s a real honour to be here at the Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival commemorating the Martyrs and their sacrifices and celebrating the trade union movement they gave birth to.
James Brine, James H Hammett, James and George Loveless, Thomas and John
Stanfield – their names leave on in our songs, in our stories, in our poems in our celebrations and our struggles. They are part of our working-class culture, are true heroes – not generals, not bishops, not prime-ministers.
The story of Tolpuddle Martyrs is famous throughout the global trade union and socialist movement. Whenever there is a struggle between the workers and the employer, the Tolpuddle Martyrs are there in spirit, inspiring us to fight on.
Last year I was privileged to address the Durham Miners’ Gala treading in the footsteps of the Dennis Skinner and Tony Benn. This year I feel equally privileged to be here with you today, where so many great socialists have gathered. It’s an honour to share the platform with Nigel, with Kev, with Steve, with Angela, Mark, Frances and our good friend Jeremy Corbyn.
I come from a place many miles away, many different languages are spoken, where there are different cultures, ethnicities and religions. Where the smell of every kind of food wafts on through the evening air.
Yes, I came from Vauxhall in Lambeth in South London.
But before that, I came from the Kurdish region of Turkey. I arrived as a child of a Kurdish refugee family, with little money, no English, but a lot of determination. I waited on tables in smart places like Mayfair and eventually I got to run my own restaurant now.
And of course, I joined the Labour Party and the trade union movements, because I know that the only way that we will get a better future and a peaceful world, is the country run for many, not for the few.