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Tuesday 3 June 2014

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TUSC steering committee sets out plans for 2015 in letter to candidates

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee met on May 28th to assess the outcome of the local election campaign and discuss plans for 2015.

TUSC chairperson Dave Nellist opened the meeting by congratulating the TUSC steering committee member Keith Morrell, present with follow rebel councillor Don Thomas, on his decisive victory in Southampton's Coxford ward. It was a message to all Labour councillors who sit in council meetings voting for cuts with a 'heavy heart' - they can refuse to implement the ConDems' austerity agenda, and be re-elected.

The meeting agreed the comprehensive election report presented by the TUSC national election agent, Clive Heemskerk (see www.tusc.org.uk/txt/306.pdf). It then got down to discussing the plans for developing TUSC over the next eleven months.

The text of a letter to all TUSC candidates and election agents was debated, covering both the general election and the equally important local council elections scheduled for May 7 2015, and the urgent task of consolidating local TUSC groups to carry out the work that needs to be done.

The letter as finalised at the meeting is printed below:

To: All TUSC local election candidates and agents

31st May 2014

Dear comrade,

We are writing on behalf of the TUSC steering committee to congratulate you on all your hard work for the recent elections. As you know TUSC managed to stand an impressive 561 candidates in the biggest left-of-Labour challenge in six decades. Our candidates included many trade unionists and community campaigners who had never stood in an election before, but saw TUSC as an opportunity to take the battle against austerity onto the electoral plane.

We suffered an almost complete press blackout, particularly at national level, but were nonetheless able to achieve some very creditable results. In Southampton councillor Keith Morrell, a member of the TUSC steering committee, was re-elected with a crushing majority. Nationally we received more than 1,000 votes in twenty one councils and more than 2,000 in ten. We scored over 5% of the vote in 78 council wards (for the full picture see www.tusc.org.uk/txt/306.pdf).

Hopefully all TUSC supporters have had a chance to catch their breath after the hard work of recent months, because this letter is mainly about how we develop TUSC from here. The general election is now only eleven months away, on 7 May 2015. On that date there will also be local elections in the overwhelming majority of Metropolitan and Shire District councils in England.

General election preparations

Whichever party wins the general election we will face a continuation of government for the billionaires. The Labour leadership has repeatedly made it clear that a Labour government will implement austerity. Now Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has even stated that he would consider increasing the already draconian anti-trade union laws. As the growth in support of the right-wing nationalists of UKIP has shown, it is urgent that we step up our work to build a political force that actually stands in the interests of working class people and has a clear anti-cuts, anti-racist, socialist programme.

That means continuing and stepping up the TUSC campaigning work that is taking place in local areas. It also means starting to prepare our general election challenge, with local groups making plans now, including discussing potential supporters that could be drawn into the campaign and the issue of finance, with a £500 deposit to pay just to get on the ballot paper. Regular donations should be organised now, either through standing orders or regular PayPal payments (see the TUSC website at http://www.tusc.org.uk/donate ) to prepare for this.

One campaigning proposal we are suggesting to build support for a general election challenge and gain publicity is that TUSC groups organise, in each parliamentary constituency, union delegations or lobbies of Labour prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) to demand that they sign up to support John McDonnell MP's trade union freedom bill, agree to support the reversing of all the cuts in public services and benefits that have taken place under the ConDems, and support an incoming Labour government banning zero hour contracts and immediately introducing the 'Living Wage' (£7.65 an hour, £8.80 in London). If, as is likely, Labour PPCs are not willing to sign up to these very minimal demands, or even to meet a trade union delegation, we should use this to publicly add their constituencies to the list TUSC are considering contesting.

Next year's local elections

Alongside standing in the general election, we should also, in our view, be looking to build on what we achieved this year and to stand as widely as possible in the local elections. There will be, in fact, more seats up for election in May 2015, outside of London, than were up for election this year.

Without doubt there will be some workers who reluctantly feel obliged to vote Labour nationally, but who will vote for anti-cuts councillors locally, in order to provide them with some defence against the cuts that are coming post-election. Even in the context of a national focus on the general election, TUSC can organise a vigorous local election campaign - with the added advantage that, with no election deposits, there should be no obstacles other than persuading enough candidates to stand in reaching the 'fair coverage' broadcasting threshold for these contests.

Organising local groups

In order to facilitate this work it is important that TUSC is organised locally. If no local structure already exists we recommend that a local steering committee or branch is urgently set up and that all those who have participated in the local election challenge are invited to participate.

While it is up to local groups to determine exactly what structure best suits your locality, they should operate on the basis of consensus, as is the case nationally, in order to build the maximum possible unity between the growing forces involved in TUSC.

TUSC national steering committee members would be very happy to come and speak to local meetings if that is helpful. In any event we would be very pleased to hear from you before the next steering committee meeting on July 2nd about your ideas and plans to build on the big steps forward taken by our coalition in May's elections.

Yours comradely,

Dave Nellist, TUSC National Chairperson

Clive Heemskerk, TUSC National Election Agent