Candidate numbers grow - for parliament and the important local council elections
This week's meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee saw the number of parliamentary candidates approved to stand for TUSC in May's general election pass the 120 mark.
At the same time, with four weeks still to go until nominations close, 387 council candidates are now in place to carry TUSC's socialist anti-austerity message in the local elections also taking place on May 7th. A full list of all the TUSC candidates agreed so far can be found at http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidate
TUSC's parliamentary candidates have been selected after a process including in most cases an attempt to discuss with the Labour Party candidate their position on a number of key issues before a final decision was made on whether to challenge them. A model letter was agreed by the TUSC national steering committee last year (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17017/11-08-2014/general-election-planning-model-letter-to-labour-candidates-available ) which asked Labour candidates if, for example, they would support an incoming Labour government lifting the public sector pay cap, banning zero hour contracts, and immediately introducing the 'Living Wage' (¬£7.85 an hour, ¬£9.15 in London) as the minimum wage?
Other questions included their attitude to the anti-trade union laws, and the re-nationalisation of the railways.
The Labour candidates were also asked whether they would support the reversal of all the cuts in public services and benefits that have taken place under the Con-Dems. And specifically if they would support the restoration of central government funding of vital local council public services to at least the level that existed in 2010.
The local frontline against austerity
This is important, and links to the other aspect of TUSC's election challenge in May - the local elections campaign.
Councils really are in the austerity frontline, losing 37% of their central government funding since 2010 according to the National Audit Office. So it was especially significant when, in the New Year, the Tories made their claims about Labour's alleged ¬£21 billion 'unfunded' spending commitments, Shadow chancellor Ed Balls singled out local council spending cuts, and the 1% public sector pay limit, as two examples that a Labour government would categorically not undo.
This was justification alone of the appeal made by the TUSC national steering committee to get the widest number of TUSC candidates possible to stand in May's council elections. And the results are starting to come in.
Last year TUSC stood a record 560 candidates in the local council elections. These included nearly 200 candidates in London, where there are no local elections this year. But elsewhere the TUSC local elections challenge is building on last year's campaign.
In Salford, for example, TUSC contested nine seats last year (polling an average vote of 9.9%) but is now standing in all twenty seats this year. In Manchester the number of TUSC candidates has gone from ten in 2014 to 30 now; from six to 17 in Kirklees; and from ten to 24 in Liverpool. While once again TUSC will be contesting nearly every council seat up for election in Bristol, Southampton, Plymouth and Coventry.
Could you be a council candidate?
There are still four weeks to go until nominations close. If you agree with the TUSC Local Elections Policy Platform - which commits TUSC candidates, amongst other points, to oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions if they were elected - there is still time for you to be a TUSC candidate too (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/policy for the full platform).
Prospective candidates need to complete a TUSC Candidate Authorisation Application form, copies of which are available on the TUSC website at http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidates.php . There is a guide for prospective candidates and agents, including an explanation of TUSC's procedures, available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/317.pdf
In many ways the council elections are as important as the general election in deciding what will happen to vital local services, as the best that will happen at Westminster is a change of 'management style'. Remember - if there is no trade unionist or socialist candidate standing as an alternative to the austerity parties in your area, a council candidate who won't confront the national cuts consensus will win unopposed.
So why not take up the challenge?