May Day 2016 preceded some 'momentous' political events…
The London Mayoral Elections (5 May) and the so called EU “Brexit Referendum” (23 June). Both events would throw up some political 'shape shifting' - (political manoeuvring) - which could be termed as a 'very British coup.' By the end of the summer there would be the first BME Mayor of London (Labour's Sadiq Khan) taking over from tory Boris Johnson - who in turn would become a beneficiary of a new Prime minister's cabinet….Theresa May - who ousted PM David Cameron following the ‘Brexit’ vote.
But none of this was known on May 1st 2016. The big issue then was the new Leadership of the Labour Party. During the year Jeremy Corbyn MP had been overwhelmingly elected as the party's leader on two occasions, and alongside John McDonnell, the Labour Party was finally enjoying massive popular support. This support was strongly expressed by the thousands of people who rallied in Clerkenwell Green on May 1st. The political message of support for the new leadership to the Labour Party from Trade Unions and everyone gathered on May Day was very clear.
Clerkenwell Square, in front of Marx Memorial Library, was filled with Trade Union banners and flags representing general workers and specialised professions; from telecoms to train drivers, teachers to performers, clerical workers to doctors. Joining them were high numbers of people representing pressure groups and issue based organisations - from refugee campaigns to homeless campaigns, peace groups to political groups, cultural organisations to individuals and of course every age, gender and ethnicity was there. Everyone carrying their banners and flags or playing music and shouting slogans ensured this was a noisy and friendly occasion. Jeremy Corbyn spoke from the top of the ‘Big Red Bus’ which was adorned with the ‘Trade Union Rights and Human Rights’ banner of the London May Day Organising Committee. After rallying the marchers the streets of London, from Clerkenwell to Trafalgar Square were filled with music and slogans, occasionally colourful flares were set off showering the march in red smoke. A great day ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square with a dynamic line up of speakers from Trade Unions and campaigns, and a chance to mingle with the marchers and maybe find some interesting information on the many campaign display tables around the square. The annual show of strength and solidarity at London’s May Day, which always takes place on May 1st, may not have been instrumental in causing the subsequent political turmoil that followed in the UK - however it may have helped shift the uncompromising political stagnation which served up punishing ‘austerity’ for the many.
Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn MP Leader Labour Party), John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor), Frances O'Grady (Gen Sec TUC),Yannis Gourtsoyannis (NHS - Junior Doctors), Christine Blower (Gen Sec NUT), Bob&Roberta Smith (Arts&Culture Bloc), and Day-Mer (Turkish and Kurdish Migrant Workers Organisations).