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Friday 4 April 2014

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Low turnouts in council by-elections, but there is support for TUSC

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has contested two town council by-elections in as many weeks which were marked mainly by the low voter turnout - but which also saw, in that context, decent TUSC scores.

Labour won the March 27th by-election in the South Yorkshire town of Maltby, with 48% of the vote. But just 17% of the 1,800-strong electorate went to the polls. The TUSC candidate, Unison member Gavin Roberts, won a 13% share.

But 17% was almost twice the turnout - at 9.6%! - in the Lydney West by-election on April 2nd, in the Forest of Dean. The seat was won there by the Tories with the TUSC candidate Claude Mickleson, a former treasurer of the National Pensioners Convention, picking up a 21% share of the 138 people who voted.

The samples of opinion represented by these election results are too small to have any broader significance. In the same way that an 8.5% drop in Labour's support - to poll just 65 votes in coming behind UKIP in a Pendle council by-election in Lancashire on April 2 - is not necessarily a definitive trend. But the overall performance of TUSC candidates in council by-elections does say something.

The fact is that since the start of the year TUSC has contested six by-elections in which 7,500 people have voted, in Salford, Sheffield, Cardiff, Maltby, and the Forest of Dean. Just under six per cent of them were prepared to vote for TUSC's clear anti-austerity socialist message. By comparison the Green Party have contested 15 council seats in the same period. Yet, despite the profile given it by the mainstream media, its average mean vote in those contests is much the same, at 5.4%.

It's easy to sit on the sidelines and dismiss the idea of standing against the establishment parties at the ballot box. But what alternative is that? Give them, and UKIP, a free run and a cuts candidate will be elected unchallenged. Who wins from that?

March 27 - Maltby Town council, South ward:

Labour 154; Independent 123; TUSC 42 (13.2%)

April 2 - Lydney Town council, West ward:

Conservative 67; Independent 41; TUSC 30 (21.7%)

Watch out for by-elections in your area

With the local and European elections coming up on May 22nd TUSC supporters should be looking out for potential council by-elections, even if there are not local elections scheduled for their area. When a councillor resigns in the run-up to a national poll the establishment parties often delay triggering a by-election until then, hoping to cash in on the publicity the national contest generates.

So if there is a by-election in your area on May 22nd and you're prepared to stand as a TUSC candidate, fill in an application form to get a 'Certificate of Authorisation' from the TUSC National Nominating Officer (which needs to be handed in with the nomination papers to the local council returning officer). These are available on the TUSC website at http://www.tusc.org.uk/candidates.php