Left-wing exit group appeals to media workers for fair coverage in the EU debate
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, today made an appeal to media workers for fair coverage of the socialist case against the EU in the run-up to the June referendum.
A press release was issued but also, in an attempt to speak directly to journalists and other workers, a number of media workplaces were leafletted by TUSC members.
Explaining the appeal, the ex-Labour MP Dave Nellist, who is now the chair of TUSC, said: "What has happened in the couple of weeks since the Electoral Commission chose the reactionary Vote Leave organisation as the 'official' voice of Leave has shown that this Tory-dominated outfit 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.
"TUSC was not designated as the official Leave campaign by the Electoral Commission but that does not mean the socialist case against the EU should have no hearing at all and hopefully media workers - including many fellow trade unionists in the media unions - can help us get fair coverage in this debate".
TUSC includes members of the media unions - the National Union of Journalists, BECTU and Equity - and believes that many media workers, regardless of where they stand on the EU, are frustrated by the output of the organisations they work for. Why do senior figures so rarely encourage viewpoints that challenge the official narrative? Why do they so often go for the safe option and trivialise what are serious issues?
Challenge the government narrative
The coverage of the recent Obama visit is a case in point. The trade deal that Obama said Britain would be at "the back of the queue" for if it voted for EU exit is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP, if it is agreed by the EU and the US, will significantly increase the power of multinational corporations, including over our public services.
Surely some voice should have been allowed in the media coverage of Obama's comments to challenge the idea that we want to be in any 'line' at all for a trade deal that will open up the NHS, for example, to US private health companies?
But the media organisation chiefs stuck rigidly to the 'official' script. Vote Leave, with no principled opposition to the institutionalisation of privatisation that the TTIP negotiations are aimed at, could not answer Obama.
And so, while tens of thousands of people demonstrated against TTIP in Germany and Bernie Saunders denounces the treaty in the USA, here the issue was reduced to an inane debate over Boris Johnson's bigoted comments about Obama and a Churchill bust.
There are plenty of organisations that could provide an alternative voice on this and other issues in the EU debate - TUSC is not special pleading.
But TUSC was one of three EU exit organisations that applied for recognition from the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign.
It is the sixth biggest presence on ballot papers in the elections taking place next week, and has been so for the last four years.
And TUSC, comprised of individual trade unionists and community campaigners alongside its three constituent organisations - the 80,000-strong RMT union, the Socialist Party (formerly the Militant tendency) and the Socialist Workers Party - has a significant presence on the ground. Far more so, in fact, than other 'go-to' organisations for media appearances, like the Taxpayers' Alliance for example.
A real debate might even be interesting...
There will be many issues in the EU referendum debate where Vote Leave will not only be unable to effectively challenge the government but where an alternative viewpoint would engage new audiences. It should not be forgotten how out of touch the tops of the media organisations were - bound by the established narrative - to what was happening on the ground as Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for the Labour leadership last summer.
In the US Bernie Saunders too has rightly called out the myopia of the 'establishment media' towards his phenomenal grassroots campaign.
Most media workers want to work in a creative environment where different ideas are explored and there is genuinely informed discussion. Let's make sure that's possible in the weeks that remain of the EU debate.
1. A PDF of the leaflet distributed to media workers is available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/379.pdf. The full text is available on the TUSC website at www.tusc.org.uk
2. 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.
It is standing over 300 council candidates in the local elections taking place next Thursday, two Mayoral candidates - in Liverpool and Bristol - and candidates in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly elections.
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