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Monday 3 February 2014

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As Labour moves to end union links, trade unionists and socialists plan biggest electoral challenge 'for generations'

As Ed Miliband was announcing the details of what he called 'the most fundamental changes to Labour's structures since its formation' over 200 trade unionists and socialists were meeting in London to discuss organising the biggest left-of-Labour challenge in local elections since world war two.

Mike Sargent, RMT executive committee , photo by Paul Mattsson

Mike Sargent, RMT executive committee , photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) Local Elections 2014 conference was opened by RMT executive committee member Mike Sargent, officially representing the transport workers' union, saying that the RMT "has got form" when it comes to fighting for working class political representation.

"It was our predecessor union, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, which was the main force in setting up the Labour Party in 1900", he said, "and those early representatives achieved important gains, such as the repeal of the anti-union Taff Vale judgement. But Labour is no longer our party and now we are having to start out again".

TUSC candidates conference 2014, photo by Paul Mattsson

TUSC candidates conference 2014, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Former Labour MP Dave Nellist, chairing the conference, remarked, "Ed Miliband has allowed just two hours to discuss his plans at the Labour Party's special conference on March 1st, 120 minutes to overturn 113 years of history. Labour under Blair and Brown was made politically indistinguishable from the other establishment parties in representing the interests of big business and now Miliband, by effectively ending the union link, is completing the job organisationally".

The conference also heard from the Vice-President of the PCS civil servants union, John McInally, the Assistant General Secretary of the POA, Joe Simpson, and the University and College Union executive member Paul Blackledge, pledging their support for TUSC as a step towards a new workers' party.

Keith Morrell, Southampton rebel councillor, photo by Paul Mattsson

Keith Morrell, Southampton rebel councillor, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The afternoon session, launching the TUSC challenge in May's council elections, was introduced by TUSC's national election agent, Clive Heemskerk, and one of the Southampton 'rebel councillors', Keith Morrell (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/16830/07-09-2013/another-step-forward-for-tusc-as-rebel-councillors-join-the-steering-committee )

The main purpose of the session was to approve the TUSC 'core policies' for the local elections, which every prospective candidate needs to endorse before they can use the TUSC name on the ballot paper. The draft ten-point election platform proposed by the TUSC national Steering Committee (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/policy.php ), with an addition proposed by Merseyside TUSC exposing "the falsehood of the national debt being used as a reason for austerity", was agreed without any opposition.

In order to get what the BBC calls 'fair coverage' by the broadcasting authorities in May's elections a party needs to stand in 15% of the seats - 625. It was reported that so far just under 400 people had indicated that they were prepared to stand under the TUSC umbrella in May - already the largest trade union and socialist based challenge in such contests since the immediate aftermath of WWII. And with still twelve weeks to go before nominations close, others can still join in! See http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidates.php for a copy of the TUSC council candidate application form.

Video clips of the conference will be posted soon.