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Saturday 2 April 2016

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TUSC challenge to UKIP & Tories: 'Let's debate who should be the voice of Leave'

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has followed up what the BBC called a 'surprise bid' to be the official Leave campaign in June's EU referendum (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35941945) by challenging the Tory and UKIP dominated exit campaigns - Vote Leave and Grassroots Out - to a public debate on who should be the voice of Leave.

Dave Nellist, a former backbench colleague of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the chair of TUSC, said:

"We believe it is vital that working class voters who oppose the EU are not forced to line up behind the reactionary pro-austerity politicians who are being promoted in the mainstream media as the only exit voices.

"How can Tory cabinet EU outer Priti Patel, for example, allegedly the 'employment minister' in a government resisting calls to nationalise the steel industry, be remotely considered to represent workers who face the loss of thousands of jobs? By opposing public ownership she is actually siding with the EU's pro-market policies and its rules against state aid.

"That's why as part of TUSC's campaign against EU membership we are disputing any attempt by the Electoral Commission to give political authority and substantial public funds - £13 million in free postage for a start - to either Vote Leave or Grassroots Out.

"So today I issue a challenge to Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage or any other leading figures in the Vote Leave and Grassroots Out organisations.

"Before the Electoral Commission makes it decision on April 14th, let's have a public debate: 'Who should be the voice of Leave? Trade unionists and socialists - or bankers, Tories and ex-Tories?'

"They can choose the venue - we don't have to hold it in Port Talbot, Scunthorpe or Redcar if they're too afraid to venture out of London - but let's have the debate and see who really represents those millions of working class voters who will vote leave on June 23rd".

Why did TUSC apply for lead status?

Clive Heemskerk, TUSC's national election agent, explained why TUSC eventually decided to put in an application to be the designated lead campaign:

"We have been saying that the Electoral Commission should not to choose an official campaign for the Leave side in the referendum. We wrote a formal letter to the Commission setting out our arguments (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17197/30-03-2016/tusc-sends-formal-letter-to-election-watchdog-dont-back-ukip-amp-tory-eu-outers) but they replied saying 'it would not be appropriate' to meet us in the two-week period in which they are making their decision on lead campaign status.

"So we have put in our own application and, as the BBC report says, it is a serious one. We believe that the segment of big business interests represented by the reactionary Leave campaigns are already more than 'adequately represented' in the EU debate but that our constituency of working class voters is not.

"Grassroots Out, for example, is planning to spend £8m before the official start of the campaign on April 15th, with the ex-Tory now UKIP donor Aaron Banks intending to spend £3.5m of his £200m fortune. Vote Leave is also not short of wealthy business backers.

"The reality is that either of the reactionary Leave campaigns will be too easily dealt with by the equally big business-dominated 'Britain Stronger in Europe' Remain campaign, because they all operate within the same economic and political framework.

"TUSC, on the other hand, would provide an alternative anti-austerity, anti-racist and socialist campaign that would offer a far greater challenge to EU supporters than Vote Leave or Grassroots Out ever could".

Petition to the Electoral Commission

TUSC has a petition to the Electoral Commission calling on them not to give taxpayers' money and other public resources to the reactionary-led exit groups. Founding signatories include two trade union national presidents and 25 union national executive committee members.

Sign the petition online at http://www.tusc.org.uk/17170/04-02-2016/dont-give-taxpayers-money-to-ukip-and-tory-eu-campaigners

A TUSC leaflet is available to order, explaining TUSC's 'Exit Left' opposition and our campaign to make sure the voice of opposition is not dominated by UKIP and the 'Eurosceptic' Tories (see PDF at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/367.pdf). To order supplies go to http://www.tusc.org.uk/resources on the TUSC website.