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Monday 6 October 2014

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TUSC sets target of 100 parliamentary and 1,000 council candidates in May 2015

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee, meeting last week, has set an ambitious target for next year's elections - to have a TUSC candidate in one thousand local council wards and one hundred parliamentary constituencies on May 7th 2015.

One thing is clear about the outcome of the 2015 general election. Whichever establishment party or combination of parties wins, they will continue with policies favouring the rich and austerity for the rest of us.

That's why TUSC was set up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport workers' union. Its purpose is to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to come together on a common platform to challenge the pro-austerity unity of the establishment parties at the ballot box.

As well as the general election, May 2015 will see elections in England in over 6,000 council seats in 279 local authorities. The biggest cuts have been made to local public services, with councillors of all parties - Labour and Green as much as the Tories, Liberal Democrats and UKIP - meekly voting them through. And council services will again be in the cuts frontline after May 2015.

That's why TUSC will be standing in both the general election and the local council elections next year. To make sure pro-big business politicians are not left unchallenged for their Westminster seats - and to campaign to have councillors in place who will refuse to implement the cuts that will be made by whoever is the new occupant of Number Ten.

The 'fair media coverage' thresholds

The candidate targets proposed by the TUSC steering committee relate to the broadcasting authorities' minimum candidate number thresholds for what they call 'fair media coverage' in elections, not just a party election broadcast but proportionate representation for spokespersons in 'election-related items' etc.

Although the BBC, acting on behalf of all the broadcasting organisations, will not produce its final guidelines until early next year, it is likely that once again the threshold for 'fair media coverage' will be set at a party contesting one sixth of the seats up for the particular election (with other considerations including the geographical distribution of candidates).

For TUSC to contest one-sixth of the constituencies in the general election would mean 89 candidates in England, ten in Scotland, and seven in Wales. For the local elections, for TUSC to stand in one-sixth of the council wards being contested would mean a minimum of 1,015 candidates.

The importance of the council elections

The 2015 general election is taking place on the same day as council elections in 279 local authorities in England and contests for the directly-elected mayors of Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay.

That means there will be parallel election battles in 6,085 local council wards in 428 constituencies. The exceptions are the constituencies in Scotland (59 seats), Wales (40) and London (73), and a further 32 English parliamentary constituencies in unitary county council administrative areas and a handful of shire districts where there are no local elections in this cycle.

In many ways the local council elections are as important for trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners and socialists as the general election. With all the establishment parties - and UKIP too - committed to austerity, the best that will happen in the Westminster elections is that there will be a change of 'management style' at the top.

But it will be possible in that situation to make the argument that the best way to put pressure on the new incumbent at Number Ten, alongside any votes won for TUSC general election candidates, is to vote for local councillors who will refuse to vote for cuts in the council chamber. There will be voters who will 'split' their votes, for one party in the general election and for TUSC in the local elections - providing there is a TUSC candidate on the local council election ballot paper in their ward.

That is why the TUSC national steering committee is appealing for the widest possible number of trade union members, anti-cuts campaigners, young people - everyone in fact who opposes the austerity agenda - to themselves come forward as council candidates for next May's elections on our clear policy platform of refusing to implement the cuts (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/policy ).

TUSC has produced a comprehensive directory of all the 'election battlegrounds', available on our website at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/312.pdf which includes a regional breakdown of parliamentary constituencies grouped into local authority areas. This will help prospective candidates and local TUSC groups to make sure their planning for the local elections is dovetailed with their general election plans, for the biggest possible impact.

Can you help?

The one thousand plus one hundred target is ambitious. Can you help? TUSC stood 560 candidates in the 2014 local elections, the biggest left-of-Labour working class election challenge since the end of world war two. Are you prepared to be a candidate this time? Can you help build support in your trade union or your local community for candidates who will fight back? Can you donate to TUSC (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/donate ) to help put socialist anti-austerity candidates on the ballot paper?

After all, something else is also clear. If we don't fight to change things, things won't change.