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Wednesday 12 November 2014

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Local lobbying of Labour MPs stepped up as TUSC candidate selections get under way

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee, meeting this week, has approved the first eight parliamentary candidates for next May's general election.

At the same time, as part of building support for standing a TUSC candidate, more TUSC groups are organising open letters and delegations to challenge their local Labour Party parliamentary candidate on where they stand on key issues, before a decision is made on whether the seat will be part of the TUSC 2015 election campaign.

The first TUSC parliamentary candidates approved include the former Labour MP and TUSC national chairperson Dave Nellist, who will stand in the Coventry North West constituency presently held by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, a multi-millionaire former businessman and one of the wealthiest MPs in the current parliament.

Other candidates include two members of the RMT, Glen Hart, previously the RMT's London Transport regional council's Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer, who will be contesting Croydon North, and Sean Hoyle, a former member of the union's executive committee, standing in Portsmouth South. The other TUSC candidate in that city, for the Portsmouth North constituency, is Jon Woods, chair of the city council's UNISON branch and Portsmouth Trades Council.

The Tottenham constituency in north London will be contested for TUSC by Jenny Sutton, branch chair of the University College Union (UCU) at the local CONEL college. And two candidates have been approved so far in Wales, Scott Jones, a branch secretary of the shopworkers' union USDAW, standing in Llanelli, and the secretary of Swansea Trades Council, Ronnie Job, contesting Swansea West. Pete McLaren, a member of Left Unity's national council, will stand as a TUSC candidate for Rugby constituency.

Hackney TUSC meets one local MP but not the other

As part of their pre-election campaigning local TUSC groups are collecting signatures on open letters to Labour prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs), and trying to follow these up with a delegation to meet the PPC. This is to establish their position on a number of key issues before a final decision is made on whether to challenge them next May.

A model letter to Labour candidates is available for local groups to use or to adapt to their own constituencies (a PDF version is available at www.tusc.org.uk/txt/315.pdf or, for a downloadable Word version, see www.tusc.org.uk/txt/308.doc).

In early October Hackney and Islington TUSC wrote to the current Labour MPs in Hackney, Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier, with a letter signed by over 40 local trade unionists. This led to a meeting on Monday 20 October with Diane Abbott where four main areas of policy were discussed with a delegation of local trade union and community activists.

Diane agreed with TUSC's call in the letter to reverse the anti-trade union laws. Regarding the reversal of all cuts in public services and benefits, and restoring central government funding of local councils to 2010 levels, Diane was in broad agreement but preferred her own form of words which she will communicate in writing to TUSC. She agreed with the demand to abolish zero hour contracts and the introduction of the London living wage of £8-80 as the minimum wage and, on the last policy area, she agreed with renationalisation of the railways but took a wait and see approach to bringing Royal Mail back into public ownership.

In contrast, the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier, has to date not even replied to the TUSC letter.

As a result of this process Hackney and Islington TUSC will be holding a meeting to discuss its election candidates on Tuesday 11th November, 7pm, at the Day-Mer Community Centre, Howard Road, N16 8PU.

Lobbying in Lincoln and Derby

Lincoln currently has a Tory MP but the local TUSC group is still organising for signatures for an open letter to Labour's parliamentary candidate. Lincoln TUSC adapted the national model letter and agreed seven demands, including opposition to fracking, to put to Lucy Rigby, the Labour PPC (the letter can be signed here).

2014 TUSC council candidates Danny Wilkinson (left) and Mike Hancock on the recent TUC ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ national demo

2014 TUSC council candidates Danny Wilkinson (left) and Mike Hancock on the recent TUC ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ national demo   (Click to enlarge)

Michael Hancock, a spokesperson for TUSC in Lincoln, said: "Ordinary people in our city are crying out for an MP who will stand up for our living standards and fight to protect our public services.

"By launching these basic demands, TUSC in Lincoln is seeking to begin a discussion about how we can most effectively achieve political representation for working-class people. We hope that Lucy Rigby will publicly support these basic progressive policies".

Danny Wilkinson, a TUSC candidate in the 2014 council elections in Lincoln, added: "People need to know that there is a better alternative to austerity. There is a lot of money in Britain but most people don't see any of it. If Labour says it stands up for ordinary people in Lincoln, their parliamentary candidate should support this basic programme".

In Derby, the MP for the city's Derby South constituency, Margaret Beckett, replied to a letter signed by 15 local trade unionists but said that she would not meet them to discuss policies. Chris Williamson, the Derby North MP, on the other hand, has agreed to a meeting.

The national steering committee has set an ambitious target for next year's elections (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17032/06-10-2014/tusc-sets-target-of-100-parliamentary-and-1000-council-candidates-in-may-2015 ). The process is under way.