Tony Benn joins Burston rally

Hundreds of public and private sector workers took to the roads of a south Norfolk village yesterday to celebrate an industrial dispute that began almost a century ago.

Hundreds of public and private sector workers took to the roads of a south Norfolk village yesterday to celebrate an industrial dispute that began almost a century ago.

Former Labour MP Tony Benn headed a procession of more than 700 marchers for the annual Burston Strike School Rally to mark the longest strike action in history.

The veteran politician was joined by leading union officials and Labour leadership hopefuls Ed Balls and Diane Abbott who dropped in on the village green event near Diss.

The rally commemorates the struggles of teachers, Tom and Kitty Higdon, who set up a rival school in Burston in April 1914 after being dismissed from the Church of England county school because of their union connections. The strike lasted until August 1939.


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Mr Benn, who joined the rally on a horse and cart, followed the protest route first adopted by school children 96 years ago, along with union branches from across the country.

The socialist, who has called on people to revolt against the proposed spending cuts put forward by the coalition government, said it was a 'really lovely' event and it was important to recognise the struggles and success of the Higdons.

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'We have got a government making big cuts in pay, pensions and jobs and people come here because when they hear about the struggles of the past, it inspires them to carry on. Every generation has to fight the same battles again and again and there is no final victory and no final defeat,' he said.

Organisers spoke of their delight following a 'fantastic' turnout for the annual procession, which has been running since 1984. Mike Copperwheat, trustee of the Burston Strike School, said there were many teachers at this year's event and the attendance could be down to the Conservative-Liberal government.

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