1 December 2012
THE TRADE Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was set-up in 2010 to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to appear on the ballot paper in elections as something distinctly opposed to the establishment parties and their pro-austerity agenda. Otherwise, if not endorsed by a party registered with the Electoral Commission, opponents of austerity would only be able to appear as indistinguishable ‘Independents’. At the same time, TUSC exists to aid those fighting the long-term battle that is necessary, in the trade unions in particular, to re-establish independent working class political representation.
The candidates who came forward to take up the TUSC banner in November’s by-elections certainly fulfilled both tasks, and are to be congratulated for their stand.
In November 29’s eleven-candidate by-election contest in Rotherham Ralph Dyson, the joint divisional secretary of the local National Union of Teachers, polled 281 votes. On the same day John Malcolm, the secretary of the Tees, Esk & Wear Valley Unison Health branch, polled 277 votes in the Middlesbrough by-election. These contests followed the Manchester Central by-election on November 15, where TUSC was represented by Alex Davidson, the vice-chair of the PCS North West Region. Also on November 15 a TUSC candidate, Unite member Tom Baldwin, won 1,412 votes in the Bristol mayoral election – and candidates in three council by-elections, in Rugby, Liverpool and Manchester, polled from 3.9% to 2.2%.
The TUSC national Steering Committee is meeting in December and will discuss some of the broader issues arising from the November elections. Is there any significance in the fact that the Greens, with their higher profile, didn’t contest every seat (or that they polled 1.1% in Corby)? How should trade unionists and socialists respond to UKIP as a potential repository of protest votes (although interestingly the TUSC mayoral candidate in Liverpool this May, with 4,792 votes, polled ahead of the Tories and double the UKIP vote)? And then there were the Respect candidates, in Manchester (where TUSC outpolled Respect) and Rotherham (where ex-Sunday Express journalist Yvonne Ridley polled 1,778 votes for Respect). TUSC has previously pursued Respect to discuss possible electoral collaboration but they have not been prepared to talk (see TUSC-Respect correspondence) – what should be done now?
Overall, as we wrote earlier this month, “not too much can be drawn from a handful of electoral contests, either ‘writing off’ TUSC or exaggerating the possibilities at this stage. The most important fact is still the absence of a vehicle for working class political representation, given Labour’s broad acceptance of the capitalists’ austerity agenda. Standing in elections is part of the struggle to build one”. After the November election rush, with an unusually high number of parliamentary by-elections for one month, that’s still the case.
Middlesbrough parliamentary by-election:
Labour 10,201; UKIP 1,990; Lib Dems 1,672; Conservative 1,063; Peace Party 1,060; BNP 328; TUSC 277 (1.6%); Independent 275.
Rotherham parliamentary by-election:
Labour 9,966; UKIP 4,648; BNP 1,804; Respect 1,778; Conservative 1,157; ED 703; Independent 582; LD 451; TUSC 281 (1.3%); Independent 51; EDL 29.
For a full breakdown of TUSC’s May election results, across more than 120 seats, see http://www.tusc.org.uk/pdfs/2012/TUSC_Results_Report.pdf)