Outline details have been agreed for a broad Convention of campaign groups and socialist organisations considering standing candidates in the general election – to organise a common working class challenge for the contest that will take place at some point in 2024.
The Convention date has been set for Saturday 3rd February, in Birmingham at a venue to be announced.
The TUSC all-Britain steering committee had invited around thirty campaign groups and socialist organisations to co-host a gathering to discuss an election challenge (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Invite-to-organise-convention-October-2023.pdf) and had received replies from organisations representing 14 of them by the time of its meeting on November 22nd.
Five organisations so far have agreed to be Convention co-hosts – the Socialist Party, System Change (formerly Resist), the Campaign for a Mass Workers Party, Socialist Students, and the TUSC Independent Socialists section – with the Social Justice Party and Just Stop Oil still consulting, and the interim committee of the new Transform Party not in a position to make a decision before their now-completed inaugural conference on November 25th.
A Convention Arrangements Committee (CAC) has been agreed, composed of the five organisations and the TUSC officers – which, however, is still open to those who subsequently decide that they wish to co-host the event.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has announced the core policies platform that every candidate who wants to stand for the coalition in the May 2024 council elections has to accept as their minimum commitment to voters.
The council elections that will take place on 2nd May next year will not be another routine set of polls for seats in the local town hall. They will be the last round of local elections before the general election, that must be called no later than December 2024 – if the contest to decide who will end up in Number Ten Downing Street is not, as it could be, held on the same day.
Whenever the general election is actually held, the councillors that we elect in May 2024 will effectively be our communities’ negotiators with the new government – for the funding we need to protect, improve and expand our vital local public services.
But this will be against the backdrop of a funding crisis for councils – and the clear signalling from the Autumn Statement debates that all the establishment parties in parliament will continue the austerity squeeze on public spending.
That’s why every vote for a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) council candidate, and every additional volunteer prepared to stand as a TUSC candidate, will be the clearest possible counter-signal we can give in the May local elections – whoever ends up in Number Ten, we want fighting councillors in our town halls!
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood in the by-election for the Mayor of Hackney that was held on November 9th.
The TUSC candidate was the national trade union organiser Annoesjka Valent who, before taking up her current position, worked for nearly seven years for the council and represented Hackney workers as a local shop steward.
Labour retained the Mayor’s position with a 49.8% vote share but its actual vote fell by 17,575 from its score in the regular election in May 2022. By-election turnouts are generally lower, but Labour’s vote was still down – by 4,121 – from a previous Hackney mayoral by-election in 2016, when it also won a 68.9% vote share.
The Green Party was the main beneficiary of the discontent with Keir Starmer’s Labour that this result showed, coming in second. But local TUSC supporters were happy with Annoesjka’s very creditable 1,265 votes, a 3.4% share, in TUSC’s first showing in a mayoral election in Hackney and the first in the borough run under first-past-the-post – rather than the previous supplementary vote system of first and second preferences.
Below is a report of the campaign by Brian Debus, the Hackney and Islington TUSC convenor. ■
With Keir Starmer showing every day that a government he leads will be another version of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ complete with its Iraq war-style echoing of US foreign policy – the latest example being the suspension of the Labour MP Andy McDonald after his speech at last week’s mass demonstration against the war on Palestine – the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has issued an urgent call for a broad convention to organise a working class challenge at the forthcoming general election.
The TUSC all-Britain steering committee meeting on 25th October agreed to invite all campaign groups and socialist organisations considering standing candidates at the general election to co-host a convention to discuss details. TUSC has previously contacted more than twenty campaign groups and socialist organisations to discuss their thoughts about the general election.
The aim is not for another debate on whether an election challenge is a good idea or not, but to get down to practical organisation. The time for decisions is coming.
The letter of invitation is printed below, and is also available as a PDF at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Invite-to-organise-convention-October-2023.pdf ■
The Labour Party’s Manifesto at the 2019 general election, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, committed an incoming government to “immediately suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, and to Israel for arms used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians”.
A Corbyn-led government, the Manifesto went on, would also strive to “secure justice and accountability for breaches of human rights”, listing, as an example, “the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip”.
More broadly, the Manifesto said, “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine”.
“There can be no military solution to this conflict”, it continued, and “all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve. That means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks”. To press for a resolution, “a Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine”.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is on the ballot paper in the by-election for the Mayor of Hackney taking place on November 9th – but immediately faced censorship of its message by the Labour-run East London council.
The TUSC candidate is national trade union organiser Annoesjka Valent who, before taking up her current position, worked for nearly seven years for the council and represented Hackney workers as a local shop steward. Since moving on she has still been involved as a Hackney resident in local struggles against council cuts.
But when TUSC handed in our text for the official Mayoral address booklet, that goes to every household in the borough, our effort to contrast Annoesjka’s record with that of the Labour candidate, councillor Caroline Woodley, was censored by the council.
There are many examples of slashed council jobs and services made by the right-wing Labour council as it has implemented budget cuts worth over £200 million since 2009. But one particular case was the attempt made in 2021 to close down the Fernbank and Hillside children’s centres – led by the council cabinet member responsible, Caroline Woodley.
So, in making the point in our Mayoral address – in the original wording – that this election “will decide who negotiates for our borough with both the Tory government and a likely Keir Starmer-led Labour government” implementing austerity, we asked: “Will our borough be best represented by the Labour candidate who tried to close Fernbank and Hillside children’s centres? Or by the TUSC candidate, a member of the Socialist Party, which supported the campaign that saved them and has fought every cut?”
What could possibly be wrong in saying that? Unless you want to obscure the role of local Starmer-supporting Labour councillors in passing on Tory cuts and what that says about how they will act in the future? And that’s what the amendments forced on the TUSC election address did.
As Annoesjka says: “As Mayor I would be a shop steward fighting for the residents and workers of Hackney, not a manager passing down austerity from the Tories or Starmer’s Labour”. And, despite the obstacles, that will be the message that the TUSC campaign will deliver! ■
You can check out Annoesjka’s election address – as finally approved by the council! – at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Hackney-mayoral-address.pdf
And go to https://www.tusc.org.uk/donate/ to make a donation to the campaign, putting in the message bar, ‘Hackney Mayor’.
‘What’s the point of another Labour councillor in Waltham Forest?’, is the message heading the election leaflet of Nancy Taaffe, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in a forthcoming by-election in the Higham Hill ward in the east London borough.
The Tories only have 13 out of the 60 councillors in Waltham Forest, with Keir Starmer’s Labour holding an overwhelming majority in the council chamber with 45. So why vote for one more “to go along to meetings and put their hand up to cut our services and jobs”, as the TUSC leaflet says.
Instead, it goes on, “why not vote for a socialist fighter who has campaigned to save libraries and youth services, who campaigns for council homes instead of blocks of expensive flats, and who isn’t afraid to stand alongside workers striking for a pay rise?” That’s the TUSC candidate in the 26 October by-election, Nancy Taaffe. (The full text of Nancy’s leaflet can be viewed at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Higham-Hill-TUSC-leaflet.pdf).
Nancy, and other TUSC supporters in Waltham Forest and elsewhere, don’t just turn up at election time but are out there, week in, week out, supporting strikers – or striking themselves! – and campaigning on every issue affecting working class communities. But we are also prepared to challenge the establishment politicians at the ballot box too. Why not join us? Go to https://www.tusc.org.uk/join/ or https://www.tusc.org.uk/donate-to-tusc/ to make a donation to our work.
The September meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee discussed what is going to be a busy autumn of opportunities to spread the case for a new working class political alternative to be built to the mainstream establishment parties.
The first subject debated was the funding crisis facing Birmingham city council and what this means for the next round of local elections that will take place in May 2024.
Birmingham is not the first local authority – and will certainly not be the last – to issue a ‘section 114 notice’ declaring itself unable to balance its books. Estimates vary as to how many other councils face a similar prospect in the next twelve months and what the overall funding gap for all councils might be. On this occasion the BBC has produced a useful dataset of councils’ predicted deficits and planned cuts – ‘savings’ as they call them – at Black hole in town hall budgets rises to £5bn - BBC News; although, it should be noted, produced as it was over the summer, the amount predicted for Birmingham underestimates the actual figure the council revealed in September.
But some things are beyond dispute. Local councils, responsible for over one fifth of all public spending, face a funding crisis – and the case for getting fighting, socialist anti-cuts councillors into our town halls has never been stronger.
The candidates have been officially confirmed for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West UK parliamentary by-election being held on October 5th. Against the backdrop of a continuing trade union fightback against the cost-of-living crisis, the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are standing local union leader Chris Sermanni.
Although a new offer has now been tabled by the employers, the present situation is that more than three-quarters of Scotland’s schools will face closure just a week before the by-election, as over 21,000 members of UNISON plan strike action over three days from 26th-28th September. In a separate dispute, UNISON members at South Lanarkshire and City of Glasgow Colleges will be taking part in rolling strike action during the by-election period.
Chris Sermanni, a resident of Cambuslang, one of the biggest population centres in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency, is also a UNISON shop stewards convener at Glasgow City Council. He is ideally placed to be the voice of workers’ protest in the by-election contest against the establishment parties; from the SNP and their allies in the Scottish government, the Scottish Greens, to the Tories, Lib Dems and Scottish Labour.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that despite efforts to achieve a single socialist candidate in the by-election, there will also be a candidate on the ballot paper on October 5th from the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). We print below a statement from the Scottish TUSC steering committee explaining how, on this occasion, it was not possible to reach an agreement with the SSP.
Donations to Chris Sermanni’s campaign can be made via the TUSC website at https://www.tusc.org.uk/donations/by-election/ ■
Unison members in 24 council areas in Scotland have voted massively in favour of strike action, in ballot results announced last week. This includes South Lanarkshire council, in which the Rutherglen and Hamilton West UK parliamentary constituency is situated and a by-election is underway, where 96% of the Unison members balloted voted for strike action.
Chris Sermanni, the local Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, who is himself a Unison shop stewards convener for neighbouring Glasgow City Unison, said:
“The vote by Unison members in schools and early years in council areas across Scotland are phenomenal. Twenty-four of the 32 council areas have exceeded the Tory anti-union thresholds, with most showing over 90% of members voting to strike for a decent pay rise. They are joining members of GMB and Unite who have also strike mandates in ten council areas each”.
“This sends a clear and unequivocal message to our employers that they had better increase their unacceptable pay offer or face strike action in schools in two-thirds of Scottish councils”.
“As a council worker myself, I congratulate South Lanarkshire Unison members on their determination to fight for pay justice. Whenever action is called, Scottish TUSC will be on the picket lines supporting council workers”.
Chris is a resident of Cambuslang, one of the biggest population centres in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency. He is also the Unison shop stewards convener for Glasgow City Council’s Social Work Department, playing a leading role in the successful 2015 Homeless Caseworkers strike. He is a member of Socialist Party Scotland.
For more info contact Scottish TUSC at +44 7889 135533 or e-mail [email protected]
As A-level results day opened on August 17th, following the Scottish Highers’ results release a week earlier, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) issued an open letter (see below) to seven socialist student groups who organise on campuses across Britain to discuss campaigning with TUSC for free education at the next general election.
One thing at least is totally clear about the election. The free education enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of MPs sat in Westminster will not be on offer from any of the establishment parties they represent. What was good enough for them, is too good for us!
But that wasn’t the case at the last two general elections when, with Jeremy Corbyn as the leader, the Labour Party was committed to the principle that education should be free. The 2019 Manifesto, for example, pledged to “end the failed free-market experiment in higher education, abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants”, and “develop a new funding formula for higher education that ensures all public HE institutions have adequate funding for teaching and research” and “ends the casualisation of staff”. That’s all gone under Sir Keir Starmer.
So what should be done? The letter to the various socialist students’ groups sets out a suggested plan for a united campaign, at this point for discussion. But with the start of a new academic year looming, and the general election at the latest just 16 months away, the time for action will be soon.
The letter is also available as a PDF at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Appeal-to-student-organisations.pdf ■
First it was the North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll who announced that he would stand as an independent against the official Labour candidate for the new North East Combined Authority mayor in next May’s local elections.
Labelled by the media as ‘the last Corbynista in office’, he had been undemocratically barred from Labour’s selection process but wasn’t going to let that stop him from standing – a decision warmly greeted by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee. (See https://www.tusc.org.uk/19466/19-07-2023/jamie-driscoll-should-stand-and-the-left-led-unions-should-back-him/).
Now the former Socialist Campaign Group Labour MP, Emma Dent Coad, has declared that she is also likely to stand independently, in her old Kensington parliamentary constituency in next year’s general election (see https://www.standard.co.uk/topic/emma-dent-coad). She too was excluded from the list of potential candidates to contest the seat in Labour’s rigged selection procedure and resigned from the party in April this year. (See https://www.tusc.org.uk/19102/01-05-2023/another-corbyn-era-mp-says-theres-no-place-for-her-in-starmers-tory-lite-new-labour-party/).
Meanwhile, although the official release of Labour’s latest audited membership figures are still pending from the Electoral Commission – the regulatory authority for political parties – it is certain that they will register another fall of tens if not hundreds of thousands from the 564,433 peak recorded under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in December 2017. And, of course, the cost-of-living crisis and the working class fightback against it have not gone away.
The ingredients are there for a significant challenge at the ballot box to Sir Keir Starmer’s Tony Blair-style ‘New Labour’ and its re-heated ‘fiscally responsible’ austerity politics. But to bring together the widest range of trade unionists, socialists of different organisations or none, and working class community and social movement campaigners in a common election campaign, needs a will to collaborate – and organisation, at the top and, as importantly, on the ground.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee has published a first edition of a campaign pack, Organising for the General Election, available both as a PDF at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/General-Election-Campaign-Pack-July-2023.pdf, and in Word format at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/General-Election-Campaign-Pack-July-2023.docx.
The pack is aimed at all trade unionists, working class community and social movement campaigners, students fighting for free education, and socialists from any organisation or none, who want to see an alternative to establishment politicians available on the ballot paper at the next general election.
This first edition is being published in summer 2023, when the date of the general election is still unknown, except that it must be called no later than the end of 2024. The results of the three by-elections on July 20th will hardly encourage Rishi Sunak to go early – whereas in December 2019 40% of the registered electorate in the three seats turned out to vote Conservative, this time just 15.5% found the enthusiasm to do so, dire even by 'normal' by-election standards. But nevertheless, even if the general election is not held before the last possible date, planning for it has to begin now – nationally and, most importantly, locally too.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee has welcomed the announcement by the current Mayor of the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll that he is planning to stand as Mayor of the North East Combined Authority in the elections for the new post that will take place next May.
At its latest meeting on July 19th the steering committee agreed that it would not accept any application to stand as a TUSC candidate in the mayoral election as long as Jamie remains as a declared candidate.
Jamie Driscoll’s exclusion in June from Labour’s mayoral selection process – of someone regularly referred to in the establishment media as ‘the last Corbynista in office’ – was another example of how ruthless Sir Keir Starmer has been in his efforts to re-make the Labour Party as a safe alternative for the capitalist establishment, after the shock they all suffered during the period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Jamie has still not been formally informed why he was excluded, as a sitting mayor. “I do stand on picket lines, I was on a picket line this morning with workers who are in dispute. Perhaps that’s it, but honestly I do not know”, he told the BBC (June 2nd).
Now, after appeals made on his behalf were ignored, including an open letter signed by eight left-wing trade union general secretaries – from ASLEF, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, POA (personal capacity), RMT, UCU (pc), and the URTU – Jamie has decided to stand as an independent against the recently announced official Labour candidate, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuiness.
The official petition to recall the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, Margaret Ferrier, opened for signatures on June 20, and will close at 5pm on July 31. If ten percent of the registered electors in the constituency sign the petition – 8,113 voters – a by-election will be held, probably in early October. This follows the suspension of Ferrier from the House of Commons on June 6, resulting from her conviction for breaking Covid regulations in September 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
If the Recall Petition is successful Ferrier, elected as a Scottish National Party (SNP) MP in 2019 but sitting as an independent since 2020, will have the right to stand in the by-election. But the SNP is contesting the by-election even if Ferrier stands again, and the Scottish Labour Party have selected their candidate, Michael Shanks, who left the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in 2019 but is now their chosen representative. What better opportunity could there be for a socialist candidate to make an impactful statement for working class interests and socialism as an alternative to pro-capitalist politicians in their various hues?
To that end the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition hosted a public meeting in Rutherglen on May 17, appealing to local socialists and trade unionists to participate in a discussion on how to get a workers' candidate for the probable by-election. After further consultations, Chris Sermanni, a leading trade unionist who lives in the constituency, was selected as the Scottish TUSC candidate and announced to the media on May 26 (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/19288/29-05-2023/scottish-tusc-to-stand-in-rutherglen-and-hamilton-west/). Unfortunately, a month later, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) declared that it too has selected a candidate for the seat.
But with the by-election not likely to take place until the autumn there is still time to engage in constructive dialogue on agreeing a single socialist candidate in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West contest. The Scottish TUSC steering committee has written to this effect to the SSP, in a letter which we are publishing below. ■
The annual general meeting (AGM – conference) of the RMT transport workers’ union, held in Bournemouth from 26-29 June, agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn if he decides to stand in the next general election, including as an independent candidate.
Jeremy was formally debarred from standing for election as a Labour candidate by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) at its meeting on March 28th, in a motion presented by Sir Keir Starmer. The only way now for him to retain the seat he has held for 40 years will be to stand against the ‘official’ Labour candidate and, if he does so, he will now have the full backing of the RMT.
The AGM resolution supporting Jeremy, which we publish below, came from the union’s London Underground Engineering Branch. This was the old branch of the late Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary when the union was expelled from Tony Blair’s original ‘New Labour’ party in 2004, who went on to become the co-founder of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in 2010.
The AGM delegates decided not to embark on a full review of the union’s political strategy as proposed in another resolution – suggesting a special general meeting be held “in good time” for the general election which may be as early as next spring – but union branches can still support ‘under rule’ other trade union and socialist candidates who will be standing alongside Jeremy if he does decide to run.
Every day that passes confirms how closely tied Starmer’s Tony Blair-style ‘New Labour’ is to the capitalist establishment and its interests, in opposition to the interests of the working class. The RMT AGM decision in defiance of Starmer points to how our side needs to step up its preparations for the fight back. ■
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee recently organised an open evening Zoom meeting to provide an opportunity to question the national TUSC officers – TUSC chairperson Dave Nellist, the former socialist Labour MP (1983-1992), and the TUSC national agent, Clive Heemskerk – on the coalition’s thinking about the next general election.
Over 100 people logged in to what one of the TUSC individual members’ representatives on the steering committee, Pete McLaren, described as “in my view, an excellent meeting which gave TUSC members and supporters ample opportunity to discuss how we prepare the largest socialist challenge possible in the upcoming general election”.
The TUSC Individual Members’ section is one of the component parts of the TUSC coalition with representation on the committee, along with the participating unions and socialist organisations, and individual leading trade unionists and anti-cuts councillors sitting in a personal capacity. (You can follow the TUSC individual members on twitter at https://twitter.com/TUSCIndependent) Pete’s full meeting report is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/PMcL-meeting-report-23-06-12.pdf
Below we publish a transcript of the introduction made to the meeting by Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC national election agent.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has re-issued its Open Letter to the Green Party calling on them to declare that they will not stand a candidate in the Islington North parliamentary constituency if Jeremy Corbyn decides to contest the seat independently of the Labour Party at the next general election.
The letter was originally sent to the Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay in April, following the decision of the Labour Party’s national executive committee on March 28th that the party leader at the last general election would not be able to stand again as a Labour candidate.
But with no response from the Green Party so far, and no indication that they would withdraw if Jeremy does decide to stand independently, the TUSC all-Britain steering committee has relaunched the Open Letter as an online petition to Carla and Adrian, which can be signed at https://chng.it/tKrLg8JN
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has pledged its full support to the Northern March for the NHS organised by Health Campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public and other health campaigners across Yorkshire and the North on Saturday July 1st.
This is part of a series of protests and other events that have been organised to both celebrate the NHS and step up the campaigning that will be necessary to ensure it can beat the threats to its survival from the Tories – and Sir Keir Starmer’s Tony Blair-style New Labour!
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has organised an evening Zoom meeting on Monday June 12th to outline the coalition’s thinking about the next general election (meeting details below).
The national TUSC officers – TUSC chairperson Dave Nellist, the former socialist Labour MP (1983-1992), and the TUSC national election agent, Clive Heemskerk – will report on the plans discussed to date by the TUSC All-Britain Steering Committee, with plenty of time available to question them.
Some of the issues that will be considered are contained in the recent letter sent to radical campaign groups and socialist organisations to discuss their plans with TUSC for the next general election (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/19275/24-05-2023/tusc-makes-new-appeal-to-left-wing-groups-to-discuss-general-election-plans/).
These include the idea of local constituency campaigns for a workers’ candidate – rather than necessarily an early selection of parliamentary candidates – including organising delegations of trade unionists, student organisations, social movement campaigners etc to the local Labour prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), to see where they stand on the policies in Labour’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos under Jeremy Corbyn. A model letter to PPCs is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/479.pdf.
But there will be other issues to look at too. Such as how to use the May 2024 local elections as a ‘dry run’ for the general election (even if the general election is held on the same day, which wouldn’t be known until March). Or the question of the ‘fair media coverage threshold’, which actually also applies for local elections too, the options on ballot paper descriptions, and so on.