Jeremy Corbyn questioned during Coventry visit over TUSC election appeal
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was questioned by the local media during a visit to Coventry about a recent appeal by the ex-Coventry MP Dave Nellist, the chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), for serious discussions on how to resist the new round of council cuts in May's local elections.
The appeal had been made after TUSC decided not to contest a February council by-election in Coventry's Lower Stoke ward, even though socialist councillors have been elected in the city in the past, including Dave himself (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17165/21-01-2016/dave-nellists-by-election-appeal-to-corbyn-lets-discuss-how-to-fight-the-cuts).
The Coventry Telegraph (26 February) reported that "the Labour Party leader was asked about comments from TUSC chairman Dave Nellist who had told the Telegraph the left-wing party was seeking talks with Mr Corbyn over a potential alliance".
"Mr Nellist", the report continued, "a former Coventry Labour MP and parliamentary colleague of Mr Corbyn, said TUSC recently stood aside in a Coventry city council by-election in the hope Mr Corbyn would agree to meet with party bosses about a potential agreement to work together".
The Telegraph said that "Mr Corbyn indicated he was focused on growing the Labour Party membership directly, although he spoke of his admiration for Mr Nellist and the hope that he could rely on his support in the future".
He was quoted as saying "I haven't had any talks with anyone at the moment".
'Dave and I worked well together'
"Dave and I worked very well together in parliament in the past, I have a lot of respect for him as a good community-minded person and I hope that we will get support from him in all quarters in the future".
Interestingly the Telegraph's report went on to say that in his visit Jeremy Corbyn had put a position on government cuts which, "despite no formal agreement with TUSC, seemed to mirror many of the same anti-austerity messages being pushed by the socialists".
"Speaking about the NHS, he said: 'I don't want it privatised, I don't want it cut, I don't want it destroyed, and I don't want to see any government picking a fight with the most responsible people in our society - the doctors and nurses. Our country doesn't have to go through this horror, cuts in public services, cuts in police numbers, attacks on the National Health Service".
The original appeal by Dave Nellist had made it clear that TUSC was prepared to work with any Labour councillor who is prepared to fight the cuts and that local TUSC groups have been contacting Labour candidates to that end. There will not be TUSC candidates standing against Labour councillors who put Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message into action.
But equally it was clear that politicians who vote for cuts should not be surprised if they are challenged at the ballot box in May's local council elections, no matter what party label they wear.