Nominations close with TUSC as the sixth-biggest party on the ballot paper
Nominations for the 2015 elections closed on April 9th with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) having in place 135 parliamentary candidates and 619 candidates contesting seats in the local council elections also taking place on May 7th.
Full contact details of our parliamentary candidates and their local campaigns can be found on our new election website at tusc2015.com/tuscs-general-election-challenge while there is a complete candidates' listing at www.tusc.org.uk/candidate
So it's official. TUSC will have the sixth biggest presence on the ballot papers issued in less than four weeks' time - but you wouldn't know that from any of the establishment media outlets.
The BBC website reported that both UKIP and the Greens are standing more parliamentary candidates than they have done before, while noting that the total number of candidates for all parties and independents across the UK had fallen by over 4% from 4,150 to 3,963.
Giving some more details, the BBC also records that the BNP are only fielding eight candidates this time - from over 300 in 2010! - and separately that, alongside George Galloway in Bradford West, there will be three other Respect candidates in May. But there was no mention, of course, of TUSC's record number of candidates. Why give a socialist anti-austerity alternative 'unnecessary' publicity?
A working class challenge
By any objective measure, however, the scale and scope of the TUSC election challenge is significant.
The University College London has researched the background of general election candidates (excluding current MPs) and found that 26% of the establishment parties' candidates were 'political professionals' - advisors, researchers, lobbyists or party officials. One third of UKIP's candidates are from a 'business or commercial' background. TUSC, in contrast, is mounting a working class challenge on May 7th.
Three quarters of TUSC candidates are active trade unionists - the rest are anti-bedroom tax activists, students, anti-fracking campaigners and anti-cuts community organisers.
One in twelve of our parliamentary candidates are members of the RMT transport workers' union (one of the TUSC constituent organisations). Four members of the National Union of Teachers' national executive committee (NEC) are standing for TUSC in May - there are more NUT NEC members standing for TUSC than there are for any other party - and three members of the Unison public sector workers' NEC. There is a regional president of the Fire Brigades Union standing in the Midlands - and a brigade organiser in Manchester - while 25% of the local and parliamentary candidates are members of Unite, the biggest Labour-affiliated union.
And then there are the 22 current or former councillors standing under TUSC's anti-austerity banner, including the former Liverpool 47 councillors - who took on and defeated Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s - Tony Mulhearn, Alan Fogg, Harry Smith and Felicity Dowling. Felicity is one of seven TUSC-approved parliamentary candidates who are appearing on the ballot paper under a joint description registered last December by TUSC and the Left Unity party (with six of the 619 council candidates also using that description) to encourage the most united possible socialist challenge.
The local elections campaign
In May 2014 TUSC stood a record 560 candidates in the local council elections, to that point the biggest left-of-Labour working class challenge in local council elections since the end of WWII. These included nearly 200 candidates in London, where there are no local elections this year (but where TUSC is contesting 35% of the parliamentary seats). So to increase the number of TUSC council candidates to over 600 is again an impressive achievement.
Most of the areas that had TUSC local election campaigns last year have built on them for this year's contests.
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. Other councils in which 100% of the wards will have a TUSC-backed candidate this year are Medway, Portsmouth, Southampton, Coventry, Bristol, Plymouth and North East Lincolnshire.
Just short of a full slate are Sheffield (by one seat!), Leicester, Stevenage and Liverpool, while 40% or more of wards will be contested by TUSC in Manchester (80%), Kirklees (75%), Watford, Lincoln, Nottingham, Carlisle, Gateshead, Brighton & Hove, Exeter, Birmingham, Walsall, Rugby, Barnsley, Doncaster and Leeds.
While TUSC is the sixth-biggest presence on the ballot paper this is still only the beginning of the type of challenge needed to the pro-austerity consensus defended by the establishment parties. But TUSC is on the march.