'On every protest you see TUSC candidates' - election campaigns hit the local press
"Walk up to any picket line, demo or protest rally in Bristol and you are sure to bump into Tom Baldwin".
This is the opening line of a Bristol Post profile of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate, Tom Baldwin, standing for election as the mayor of Bristol on May 5th.
The favourable profile by the Post political editor, Ian Onions, goes on: "Tom is a committed socialist who deeply believes that power comes from the ground up and it is only by mobilising working people that we will see any real change towards a fairer society.
"His remarkable fortitude to turn out in all weathers for striking junior doctors or campaigning to save the city's libraries or marching through the city centre against austerity measures goes to show that he believes that politics is not just about elections".
The article gives a good account of TUSC's anti-austerity platform, detailing policies such as a council house building programme and a ¬£10 an hour minimum wage for council staff and contractors employed by the council.
But it also makes clear that Tom sees the struggle against austerity as one that "would put him in direct conflict with the government from Day One of taking office as Bristol's mayor" and that it would be necessary to build a mass campaign to force the Tories to retreat.
The article also recognises the new political situation that TUSC is operating in since Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour Party leader last autumn.
Pointing out that "although Tom stood in the first mayoral election in Bristol in 2012, he was a latecomer as a candidate to this election", the article explains that this was because TUSC "had to decide whether the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party had seen his left wing views percolate down to a local level.
'Unfortunately, when it comes to the city council at the moment, it hasn't', Tom said. 'The last budget meeting at the city council saw the Labour group as the only one to vote in favour of the budget which contained ¬£30 million of additional cuts to the city.
'I would like to see them taking up the mantle of the Corbyn campaign, running with it and using that as the centrepiece of what they are doing. But they are not doing that at the moment.
'We think it's important that those arguments are put at this election and we took the opinion that we should do it ourselves'.
"He said the supplementary voting system for the mayoral election meant people had two votes so they could use their first vote for TUSC and their second one for their usual political party".
For the full article in the Bristol Post go to http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Bristol-Mayor-Elections-2016-Tom-Baldwin-profile/story-29076427-detail/story.html
Portsmouth challenge to anti-Corbynista
The relationship between TUSC's election challenge and the forces of Blairism that still have a powerful position within the Labour Party, also featured in a Portsmouth News story (13th April). In the article the leader of Portsmouth's Labour group, councillor John Ferrett, was reported as saying "a left-wing faction is targeting him at the local elections because of his opposition to Jeremy Corbyn".
The News quotes the TUSC candidate in Cllr Ferrett's Paulsgrove ward, Chris Pickett: "We have worked with Portsmouth Momentum in opposing cuts and have written to Portsmouth candidates asking them to pledge to oppose all cuts. We will be supporting those who have agreed to that.
"But we will be standing against John Ferrett because he has consistently chosen to vote alongside the Tories".
Ferrett is quoted as saying it is "a futile gesture" by TUSC "but I understand why they are making it, because I am not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn".
TUSC has been clear throughout - any politician who continues to vote for cuts to jobs and services shouldn't be surprised if they find themselves challenged by anti-austerity candidates, no matter what party label they wear.
Bristol TUSC public meeting
Tuesday 3 May, 7-30pm. At the YHA, 14 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA (on the waterfront).
A full list of TUSC's candidates in May's local council elections can be found at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/375.pdf