Another step forward for TUSC as 'rebel councillors' join the steering committee
THE Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee, meeting this week after the summer break, made a special welcome for two new members, the Southampton 'rebel councillors' Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who were expelled from the Labour Party last year for opposing council cuts.
Don was elected as a councillor for Southampton's Coxford ward in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 (having first stood as a Labour candidate in the area in 2002).
Keith joined him on the council in 2010, having also previously been a Southampton council candidate for Labour from 2006. Both members of Unite, their record in the labour movement is exemplary.
When Labour won control of Southampton in the May 2012 elections - for the first time since 1999 - Keith agreed to join the new council cabinet.
Labour's victory was on the back of the courageous resistance by Southampton's council staff to the attack by the previous Conservative administration on their pay and conditions - Labour had a firm mandate from the people of Southampton to protect local public services and jobs.
Within days, however, it was clear that Labour would not keep the promises it made in opposition to defend council services and so Keith resigned from the cabinet to be free to speak out from the council 'backbenches'. But in the Labour Party of today that wasn't possible for long.
With the backing of the council unions Unite and Unison, Keith and Don fought to save Oaklands swimming pool when its closure was announced in summer 2012 - and were suspended and then expelled from the Labour Party for doing so.
Undeterred they presented a 'no cuts' amendment to the council budget meeting in February this year, which showed how the council could 'buy time' to build a mass campaign against the cuts by using its borrowing powers to avoid making cuts now.
So fearful were Labour of allowing such ideas to be publicly discussed they refused to even allow the amendment to be debated (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/press180213.php ).
Keith and Don have proved in action that councillors do have a choice - it is possible for them to refuse to implement the cuts, as TUSC has always argued.
By accepting the invitation to join the TUSC steering committee and participate in the campaign to build a political alternative to the austerity parties they are helping to spread that message far and wide.
Who's on the TUSC national steering committee?
The TUSC national steering committee is a combination of elected representatives from participating organisations and leading trade unionists - and 'rebel councillors' - sitting in a personal capacity (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/about.php ).
The RMT transport workers' union is officially represented by Bob Crow, the union's General Secretary, Peter Pinkney, the RMT National President, and five national executive members, Daren Ireland, Sean Hoyle, Sean McGowan, Steven Skelly, and Darren Procter.
Other trade unionists, on the committee in a personal capacity, are Steve Gillan, the POA General Secretary, Chris Baugh, the PCS Assistant General Secretary, Joe Simpson, POA Assistant General Secretary, John McInally, PCS Vice-President, Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive, Nina Franklin, ex-NUT President, and Brian Caton, ex-POA General Secretary.
There are delegates from political parties - the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and Socialist Resistance - and from independent members of TUSC, represented through the TUSC Independent Socialist Network.
Also on the committee are the Preston socialist councillor, Michael Lavalette, Nick Wrack, and, now, the Southampton councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas.