EU exit group calls off legal threat to Electoral Commission but will organise its own leave campaign
The national steering committee of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), one of three EU exit organisations that applied for recognition from the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign, met yesterday to discuss its response to last week's decision by the Commission to give the Tory-dominated Vote Leave group official designation status.
Ex-Labour MP Dave Nellist, a former backbench colleague of Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the chair of TUSC, said:
"What has happened since the Electoral Commission designation decision has confirmed our argument that the reactionary Vote Leave organisation is completely incapable of representing the millions of trade unionists, young people, and working class voters generally, who will vote against the EU on June 23rd because they support basic socialist policies of workers' rights, public ownership and opposition to racism and austerity.
"Firstly it was noticeable that Vote Leave was unable to provide a spokesperson for the Newsnight discussion on Jeremy Corbyn's speech in favour of Remain. And how could they? What could Boris Johnson or Michael Gove say about defending workers' rights, for example, when they are trying to push through another attack on trade unions with the current Trade Union Bill?
"Then there was the reception the Tory MEP and Vote Leave committee member Daniel Hannan got from the Doncaster audience on Question Time when he tried to answer points about austerity.
"And at the weekend, as tens of thousands were marching through London calling for Cameron to go, another Vote Leave committee member, the Tory cabinet member Chris Grayling, said Cameron should stay on as prime minister if there is a Leave vote! Who on earth was he representing?
"This all confirms what we said when the Electoral Commission decision was announced (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17217/19-04-2016/press-release): 'the Electoral Commission has bowed to political pressure and chosen the opponents that the establishment want to fight and not the ones who could have given them a proper contest'."
The TUSC steering committee discussed the possibility of a judicial review of the Electoral Commission's decision but agreed not to proceed. Clive Heemskerk, TUSC's national election agent, said:
"The Electoral Commission's response to our argument that Vote Leave could not be held to pass the statutory test that it 'adequately represents' those campaigning for Leave was torturous.
"They admitted that the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) does not define 'adequately represents' so they used a dictionary definition that it could mean 'sufficient, satisfactory (often with the implication of being barely so)'.
"Given that official designation confers political authority and substantial taxpayers' resources to the chosen campaign it would be interesting to know what could have led the Commission to consider Vote Leave to less than 'barely represent' the working class constituency that will vote for exit in June!
"But the TUSC steering committee felt that, with the establishment having shown its determination to get the official Leave campaign they wanted, it would divert resources to mount a legal challenge.
"Instead we will organise our own campaign for exit, including a 20-city 'The socialist case against the EU' speaking tour.
"Our contention that what working class voters do will be critical in deciding the outcome of the EU referendum means we, working with other socialist and trade union-based exit campaigns, still have a duty to try and shape the character of the Leave campaign for the nine weeks that remain".
1. TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, the RMT transport workers' union leader who was well known for his opposition to the EU as an agency of anti-worker and pro-austerity policies. Along with the RMT it involves leading trade unionists from the PCS civil servants union, the National Union of Teachers, the Fire Brigades Union, and the Prison Officers Association, together with the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and independent socialists.
For information and video clips about TUSC see: www.tusc.org.uk
For interviews and any other information requests, please email: [email protected] or call Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC National Election Agent on 020-8988-8773.
The TUSC national chairperson Dave Nellist can also be contacted on 07970-294237
2. The legislation governing the EU referendum gave the Electoral Commission the power to designate one 'official' campaign on either side of the referendum question which are eligible for public funding, Freepost communications, the use of rooms free of charge, and referendum broadcasts.
But the Electoral Commission was not legally obliged to choose an official campaign if none of the applicants for lead campaign status could be held to 'adequately represent' the range of those who will support a particular outcome.