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Wednesday 27 April 2016

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'No politics please, it's election time' - TUSC protests at Mayoral booklets censorship

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee has agreed to formally complain to the Returning Officers of Bristol and Liverpool councils for what can only be described as political censorship of the TUSC candidates contesting the Mayoral elections in the two cities on May 5th.

Candidates in Mayoral contests are entitled to have an election address printed in a booklet distributed to every elector. There are rules about the content of the address, that it should not be used for commercial gain or that it must not contain "any material referring to any other candidate".

What the rules don't say, however, is that the candidate cannot refer to "the Tory government's demands for cuts" or state that "Liverpool Labour is slashing our public services"! But those were two of the deletions demanded by the Returning Officers in Bristol and Liverpool.

Don't mention the Tories...

The election address submitted by TUSC's mayoral candidate in Bristol, Tom Baldwin, included the following passages:

"Over £100m has been cut from Bristol City Council by the mayor and his cross-party cabinet that includes Labour and the Greens".

"Some say there's no choice but to implement council cuts. But Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said austerity is a political choice. The Tories were forced into a U-turn on disability benefits. By getting organised we can push them back on council cuts too, but we also need representatives who will take them on".

"If elected I will... Propose a budget based on Bristol's needs, not the Tory government's demands for cuts".

Incredibly the council's election staff 'advised' that no references could be made to the Tories and the phrase, "Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said austerity is a political choice", should also be removed.

The first passage had to be re-worded so it now read, "over £100m has been cut from Bristol City Council", with no reference allowed to the fact these cuts were being implemented by a cross-party cabinet that includes Labour and Green party councillors.

If this isn't straightforward political censorship, covering up which parties have voted for cuts, then what is?

...or Liverpool's Labour council

Liverpool's Returning Officer at least allowed a reference to Jeremy Corbyn to remain in the election address submitted by TUSC candidate Roger Bannister. Presumably, and very reasonably, he interpreted the rule about no references to "any other candidate" as meaning people who were actually standing for the Mayor of Liverpool, not a London MP who is not, in fact, standing anywhere at all this year! But liberalism has its limits.

Roger's original draft included the following passages:

"Liverpool Labour is slashing our public services while selling off our public land".

"I intend to build on Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity campaign which propelled him into the Labour leadership. Jeremy's election has changed the political landscape and given hope to millions, but if local Labour continues to implement cuts, the impact of Jeremy's election will be vastly diminished".

"This year Liverpool's Labour council intends to cut nearly £5m from children's centres, over £1m from disabled children and young people, £2m from disabled adults' day centres, a total of £42m from adult social care, and £2.5m from maintaining our parks and open spaces".

"Roger Bannister says: If Labour refuse to implement any further cuts and campaign for resources to reverse the vicious cuts made against the old, the disabled, the library services, and the rest, I will immediately withdraw my candidacy... But if Labour won't lead that fight, then TUSC and I will".

So what was left after the censor's pen was applied? All references to 'Liverpool Labour', 'local Labour' and 'Liverpool's Labour council' were removed. And if you couldn't mention Labour, the offer to withdraw if they were prepared to fight became meaningless.

The Liverpool Labour Party hold the Mayor's position and 81 of the 90 Liverpool council seats going into the elections on May 5th. They can instruct their Returning Officer, the council's chief executive, to say that black is white. But do they really think they can hide the fact that they are responsible for implementing the cuts that are savaging the city's public services?

TUSC won't let these attacks on the democratic right to tell the truth go uncontested.

The original drafts of Tom Baldwin's election address (a one-page and a two-page version as legally required) are available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/376.pdf

The final version as printed in the Bristol Mayoral Election booklet is available on the council website at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/477936/lBristol+Mayoral+candidates+booket+MASTER/1c3c51d0-4af9-42ff-96fb-d5d7ada3942f

The original drafts of Roger Bannister's election address are available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/377.pdf

The final version as printed in the Liverpool Mayoral Election booklet is not currently available on the council website.