Senior union figures protest at media boycott of anti-austerity candidates
With hours to go until the polls open the national media boycott of the biggest left-of-Labour election challenge since world war two continues.
In the local council contests Labour and the Tories are standing in over 4,000 of the 4,216 seats up for election. The Liberal Democrats have fielded just under 3,000 candidates, UKIP over 2,000, and the Green Party 1,875. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has 560 candidates, 13% of the seats.
TUSC's presence on the ballot paper is not as big as the top five but it is indisputably ahead of the rest of the pack, with the next biggest parties being the BNP (106 candidates), the Christian Peoples Alliance (61), the Liberal Party (43), and the English Democrats (31). Yet TUSC's share of media coverage is no way commensurate with the number of candidates we are standing, even compared to these 'others'.
Do a search for TUSC on the BBC website, for example, and there are just four references for the whole of this year. The website's guide to the English council results doesn't even include TUSC in its handy list of abbreviations (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26434025 ) while - you've guessed it - including the BNP, English Democrats, CPA, the Liberal Party (distinct from the Lib Dems), the Independent Community and Health Concern party, and Respect (standing in 14 seats). And the BBC isn't the worst offender! Only The Independent (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/16978/09-05-2014/tusc-election-launch-gets-in-the-independent ) of the national newspapers has mentioned TUSC outside of their letters pages.
This week a number of prominent trade unionists and socialists signed the following open letter to media organisations in protest at this disgraceful boycott:
"We are writing to protest against the failure of the mainstream media to provide serious coverage of the local authority elections and, in particular, its failure to report on candidates to the left of the establishment parties.
"One of the defining characteristics of politics in Britain today is the unanimous support for austerity among the three major parties. UKIP, the supposedly anti-establishment party, is also pro-austerity, with Nigel Farage recently arguing for an 'extra' Â£77 billion worth of cuts.
"At local level austerity has been translated into the huge destruction of public services, with local authority spending being slashed by one third over five years. Yet the national media appear to consider elections to councils - responsible for example for administering the bedroom tax and cuts to social care, along with library and youth club closures - to be an irrelevance.
"We are not arguing here for support for particular candidates standing in this year's elections for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (co-founded by the late Bob Crow), for Left Unity, or for other anti-cuts independents. But we are arguing that they, standing in one in seven of all the seats up for election this year, should be given a fair hearing in the media".
Dave Nellist, Chair, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)
Peter Pinkney, President of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT)
Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA)
Dave Ward, Deputy General Secretary, Communications Workers Union (CWU)
Ian Hodson, President, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
John McInally, Vice-President, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS)
Mick Cash, Acting General Secretary, RMT
Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary, RMT
Alan Pottage, National Organiser, RMT
Alex Gordon, RMT president, 2010-2012
Daren Ireland, Regional Organiser RMT
Sean McGowan, Regional Organiser RMT
Mike Sargent, Council of Executives, RMT
Stephen Skelly, Council of Executives, RMT
Kevin Morrison, Council of Executives, RMT
Sean Hoyle, former member Council of Executives, RMT
Joe Simpson, Assistant General Secretary, POA
Brian Caton, ex-General Secretary, POA
Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, Southampton City Councillors - expelled from Labour for voting against cuts
Hannah Sell, Deputy General Secretary, Socialist Party
Charlie Kimber, National Secretary, Socialist Workers Party
Mark Thomas, Editor, Socialist Review
Michael Lavalette, ten years a socialist councillor in Preston
Nick Wrack, Independent Socialist Network
Pete McLaren, Left Unity National Council
Glenroy Watson, RMT activist on London Underground
Hugo Pierre, Camden UNISON convenor for Education