Saturday 24 January 2015

TUSC announces it will mount the sixth biggest of the national electoral challenges this May

Standing room only at the TUSC Conference
Today was an uplifting day for all the trade unionists, community campaigners  and socialists who gathered in Central London for the TUSC Election Conference, launching the 2015 electoral challenge of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. It was also a significant step forward for anyone who wants to see the building of a genuine political voice for working people in Britain.

The TUSC stand - with the Conference confirming that there will be over 100 candidates standing for Westminster General Election seats alongside up to 1000 candidates challenging for local council seats - means TUSC will have the sixth largest stand this May. Of course, as the only consistent anti-cuts voice, we aren't expecting TUSC's stand to be easily publicised in the pro-cuts media or for us to be given a seat in the national televised debates. That's why TUSC is relying on you, your neighbours and your workmates to publicise our stand instead!

The Mayor of Walsall says don't be fooled by divide-and-rule budget 'consultations'. Say NO CUTS!
The 100-plus General Election candidates are made up of trade union representatives with a significant base of support and a long and genuine record of campaigning activity. Only TUSC can offer candidates with such a record in the movement. The 50-plus prospective General Election candidates confirmed so far include eight leading RMT officers, 2 members of the NUT National Executive (including myself in Lewisham West and Penge), 2 members of the UNISON NEC and 5 other UNISON branch secretaries, and 4 former Labour councillors, including the ex-Mayor of Harrow in Outer London.

The Conference also heard from former Labour councillors who had taken the significant step of breaking from New Labour and refusing to vote for the cuts demanded by their national and local leaderships. Rebel councillors from Southampton, Warrington, Hull's 'Red Labour' Group, Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts, and Walsall's sitting Mayor all spoke about how they had found themselves left with no choice but to stand with local people and to start working with TUSC to oppose cuts. 

Who realised how much worse things could get?
In different ways, they all spoke with passion about how, just as I decided myself some years ago, the Labour Party was no longer the Party they had once joined. As Kevin Bennett, suspended Labour Councillor in Warrington, explained, he knew that he had to be "a trade unionist first and a Labour member second". That's why he was announcing that he would be standing for TUSC in May.

The afternoon session concentrated on a principled and comradely debate on TUSC's election programme, debating how, for example, to best take up how some of our opponents were using racism to deflect workers from the real causes of the problems they face. Several amendments were agreed adding useful points to the TUSC General Election platform including "No to TTIP and all secret austerity treaties", "No to profit-driven GM technology", "Reverse attacks on trade union facility time" and to "Abolish the increases imposed on state retirement age, creating jobs for younger people".

With my candidature in the Lewisham West and Penge constituency now officially endorsed by TUSC, I will be wasting no time in pulling together my campaign committee in Lewisham West and Penge and building our campaign to challenge the pro-austerity agenda of all the main parties.

Together with everyone else at the Conference today, we will be going out to build the TUSC challenge - the only challenge committed to refusing to implement cuts and to build a political voice for working people - a voice that will be so vital whichever of the pro-cuts parties forms the next Government.

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