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Election campaigns :: TUSC
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The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood over 300 candidates in the 'Super-Thursday' elections on 6 May, the biggest number of TUSC candidates since the elections in 2016.
TUSC contested three regional lists and three constituencies in the Scottish parliament elections; all five regional lists for the Welsh Senedd contest; the all-London list for the Greater London Authority (GLA) assembly and three GLA constituencies; the city mayoral contests in Bristol and Liverpool; and 272 council seats (in 268 wards or divisions) in 89 local authorities. This was the first TUSC election campaign since 2018.
Overall TUSC candidates won a total of 46,622 votes, the largest number won in a single year's elections since the 2015 elections - in the era before Corbyn.
Among the highlights was the TUSC candidate for the mayor of Bristol, Tom Baldwin, polling 3,194 votes, more than double the score achieved when TUSC first contested this post in 2012.
In one-tenth of the wards or county council divisions contested the TUSC candidate polled 5% or more.
The TUSC results, of course, are still modest - the only victory achieved was a candidate elected unopposed to a local town council! But to launch a campaign on this scale, in just over seven months from when the decision was made back in September to stand candidates again, is an achievement nonetheless. TUSC is definitely back.
The Liverpool mayoral election took place against the background of a meltdown in the local Labour Party, and the arrest of City Mayor Joe Anderson on charges of corruption and witness intimidation. TUSC put forward Socialist Party member Roger Bannister as the mayoral candidate, and to contest the Kirkdale Ward where he lives. TUSC also stood candidates in four other Liverpool city wards, as well as two in neighbouring Knowsley, and one in St Helens.
Local business interests, and the wealthy middle class, were aware of the possibility of disillusioned Labour voters moving to the left and supported a local 'charity boss' Stephen Yip as an independent candidate in order to prevent this. Yip benefited from a well-funded campaign and lots of publicity from the right-wing Liverpool Echo. Joanne Anderson (no relation), the Labour candidate, was the party's fifth choice! The Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Liberal Party also stood candidates.
At organised hustings, and on the BBC North West Politics programme, it was clear that Roger was the only anti-cuts candidate with a programme to use council reserves to set a balanced budget whilst building a campaign among trade unionists and working-class communities to fight for adequate funding from the Tory government. Roger was also the only candidate to call for the removal of Tory government-appointed commissioners to take over important council functions.
The campaign was an enthusiastic one, with a mass canvass involving supporters from the West Midlands and London, commuters were leafleted, and campaign stalls held in the city centre. TUSC supporters also helped leaflet in the Tuebrook and Stoneycroft Ward, and mass leafleting took place in support of the TUSC candidate in Norris Green.
On the eve of poll, three candidates - Stephen Yip, Stephen Radford (Liberal) and Tom Crone (Green Party) - jointly issued a surprise statement, condemning single-party rule in the city and calling for parties to work together. However, this move was seen by many as an attempt by Radford and Crone to secure cabinet positions in a Yip administration!
The count had to go to second preferences as no candidate had an outright majority. A run-off between Anderson and Yip resulted in an Anderson win for Labour with 46,493 votes compared to Yip's 32,079. Roger Bannister received 2,912 votes.
The weekend started fairly well for Labour in Bristol by winning the West of England mayor, and re-election of Marvin Rees as the Bristol city mayor, albeit with Greens getting a big increase in their vote. But the elections for city council were a bloodbath for Labour, on a turnout of 41% - seats and heads started to roll. The Greens took 12 seats off Labour in the elections, becoming the joint biggest party. Of the 70 seats contested, the Greens now hold 24, level with Labour.
In Lockleaze, Labour lost a former stronghold to the Greens. This was clearly the result of the impact of the machinations of Labour regional officials, who deselected the candidates selected by the local ward and imposed new candidates weeks before the elections.
Labour in power has failed to solve the chronic housing crisis in the city. Failure to meet its own targets on affordable housing, and a lack of any meaningful numbers of council homes built, has placed this at the centre of the city's problems. Indeed, it is the cost of housing which is changing the complexion of many of the city's working-class areas, as house prices and private rents have risen to eye-watering levels.
TUSC fought a strong campaign and this was reflected in 3,194 votes (2.3%) for Tom Baldwin. In council seats TUSC obtained good results of 3% in Ashley, 3.1% in Lockleaze and 4.5% in Filwood.
The Greens will now come under the microscope as they have raised their profile without clearly indicating what policies they intend to pursue. The TUSC demand of building council homes, with secure tenancies, and truly affordable rents found a ready reception, as did our demand for a mass campaign to fight for the resources the city needs from central government.
Across London workers are facing a housing crisis, low pay and growing unemployment. The transport funding system is broken and in crisis. The Labour mayor Sadiq Khan is planning to increase taxes and cut bus services across the city too.
So TUSC took our fight London-wide to offer working-class people the chance to vote for a real alternative. TUSC stood on the Greater London Assembly top-up list, which elects eleven people to the London Assembly, as well as in three constituencies and 13 council by-elections. In doing so TUSC got more than 18,000 votes in London.
We described our list as "of the working class and for the working class". It reflected the many battles working-class people are facing in the city. Our candidates were teachers and teaching assistants, including those organising action on safety; NHS staff and campaigners who have been on the frontline of the pandemic; retired transport workers; Black Lives Matter campaigners; housing activists; young workers; students; and a McStriker.
Our leaflets were headed "Don't trust Khan or the Tories"; huge numbers of people feel completely let down by Labour's Khan as mayor. A son of a bus driver, he failed to keep bus drivers safe during the height of the pandemic, and has failed to stand up to bus companies against 'fire and rehire'. This was reflected in a huge dent in his electoral majority over the Tories.
In our campaigning we also explained that the Tories offered no alternative on issues such as air pollution, housing or knife crime. Instead, we stood firm on a programme of fighting the Tories for the funding that London needs, to bring back the libraries, nurseries and social care services that have been lost. We called for council house building, instead of Khan's 'London Plan' which has seen huge numbers of expensive, shoe box-sized flats built on public land, compounding the housing crisis.
Our campaign was focused on making noise on high streets and outside transport hubs across London, to let people know they could vote for a bold alternative in these elections, and that they don't have to put up with austerity and cuts from either Labour or the Tories.
Now we are looking ahead to next year when every council ward has an election, and a challenge will need to be built against local government cuts and closures.
Swansea and west Wales Socialist Party branch achieved a tremendous result in the Senedd and Castle ward by-election, not unfortunately in the number of votes cast for our TUSC candidates, but by raising the profile of our socialist programme. We recruited new members to the Socialist Party, met dozens of young workers and students looking to get more involved in our campaigns, and highlighted to thousands of electors the desperate need for the trade unions to launch a genuine mass workers' party with the resources, strength and profile that would make it impossible for the media to ignore.
Our TUSC candidates - working-class fighters, trade unionists, youth and community leaders were all socialist stalwarts prepared to raise the red flag of socialism as an alternative to Labour 'cuts councillors', reactionary racists, and political opportunists.
Our small vote, not unexpected after the relaunch of TUSC following a four-year gap when we stood aside for Corbyn's Labour, definitely wasn't a reflection of the enthusiastic response we had on our street campaigning stalls when we could actually engage in person with ordinary people.
Over a short, sharp, three-week campaign, 29 Socialist Party members delivered almost 15,000 leaflets across seven constituencies, participated on 21 public stalls, sold 172 papers, raised £150 fighting fund and, most importantly, got two new members signed up to the Socialist Party, 29 others want to find out more with a number of these wanting to discuss joining!
These new potential recruits to our socialist ranks recognised that Socialist Party members were to the forefront of the TUSC challenge - a stepping stone to a much bigger and powerful mass workers' party that will in the future not only challenge, but replace Starmer's politically bankrupt Labour Party.
I stood for TUSC in the Devon County Council elections on Thursday 6 May. In 2019 I stood for the Labour Party in the same area and was elected to Newton Abbot Town Council, where I now sit as an independent socialist. I have enjoyed standing as a TUSC candidate, spreading the message of socialism and an end to cuts to the residents of the town.
Many voters who had voted for me in 2019 when I was a Labour member were pleased I was continuing to stand for the principles of socialism, which the Labour Party no longer represents. The message of rejecting council tax rises and services charges went down well with voters; people are sick of the usual establishment parties who are not willing to stand up for them. Although the TUSC vote was modest in Devon, we will continue to build and fight for socialism.
Large numbers of new people came out to help campaign for bakers' union activist Kumaran Bose, the TUSC candidate in North Evington, Leicester. The whole ward of 7,000 properties was leafleted over just one weekend. During the campaign we delivered two separate leaflets to almost every house, but we also had campaign stalls and went door knocking.
Kumaran came fifth in the crowded council by-election field of nine candidates, receiving 117 votes. But more important were the points of support we won in the area. As an activist who was sacked by food manufacturer Samworth brothers after trying to establish the union, Kumaran was known by former co-workers we met. And now we need to get Kumaran's supporters involved in continuing activity against austerity and building socialist ideas.
Labour won the seat, but lost over 1,600 votes to the Tories in an area that in the past it had completely dominated. This does not reflect support for the Tories' ideas, but anger at the role of Labour Leicester City Council and city mayor, and the failure of Labour to act as a party of the united working class.
Across Tyneside, TUSC activists have had solid election campaigns. In Newcastle, we've participated in 'Kill the Bill' protests, taking our message to a young layer of people, including by speaking from the platform at the protests, putting forward the case for TUSC.
Over in North Tyneside, campaigners held successful park meetings, where local residents turned out to hear TUSC's anti-austerity message.
Our stalls in Gateshead particularly attracted young people who are at the sharp end of Covid job losses.
Our votes have been modest. However, despite the total lack of publicity, TUSC outpolled the Green Party and UKIP in Chirton, North Tyneside; and in High Fell, Gateshead, we gained more votes than either the Lib Dems or the Greens.
In stark contrast to our optimism, the mindset of Labour Party activists at the count in Gateshead was rock-bottom. Every Labour member we spoke to understood the Labour vote in Hartlepool was in meltdown.
Although on the night Labour didn't lose any seats in Gateshead, their councillors spoke to us of their votes haemorrhaging. They also conceded this was as a result of years of Labour not putting up a fight against Tory cuts.
Throughout the campaign we've been inundated with messages of support. This included someone who unfortunately lived just outside one of the wards we were standing in. He sent us a photo of his ballot paper, to which he had added our candidate Ros Cooper and TUSC with a cross next to it. Maybe next year he will be standing as a TUSC candidate in that ward!
Ferocious Dog's lead singer Ken Bonsall stood as a TUSC candidate for the Nottinghamshire County Council elections in the Mansfield district. The Warsop born-and-bred socialist was approached to stand by local activist and Socialist Party member Denise Tooley-Okonkwo.
Ken was a miner for 30 years and a retained firefighter for 16 years. Ferocious Dog had played at a Corbyn rally and was introduced by the man himself. Ken was a big supporter of the Labour Party's manifesto under Corbyn, but like many of us no longer felt represented by Sir Keir Starmer and Co.
The Warsop TUSC candidate stood on a platform 'against cuts', fed up with decades of austerity and cuts which had decimated local services and facilities. The campaign was well-received, and we ran several campaign stalls in the village, winning 343 votes at the count, 12.4%.
TUSC stood eight candidates in the Nottinghamshire County Council elections and got 738 votes altogether. In Warsop we received 12.4%!
But on the results page of the county council website TUSC candidates are listed as 'other'. Yet Reform UK, a newly registered party in 2018, that only stood seven candidates and got a similar number of votes, gets listed.
It seems that the words Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition cannot be published in case people are attracted to them! It is a testament to our ideas and programme that the Socialist Party and TUSC are 'othered' in this fashion.
We cannot expect council websites or the mainstream media to tell people about us and our ideas. This is why we talk to people at work, on the streets and in our communities. That is why we sell the Socialist!
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Article dated 12 May 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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