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Saturday 1 April 2017

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TUSC to challenge for the Merseyside 'metro-mayor'

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is on the ballot paper for the inaugural election of the Liverpool City Region directly-elected Mayor (the 'Metro-Mayor').

Roger Bannister, a member of the UNISON national executive council from the formation of the public services' union in 1993 until his retirement this February, will represent TUSC's anti-austerity socialist message in the May 4th contest.

Roger was a Labour Party member from 1970 until his expulsion in 1986 for his role in the struggle of the Liverpool Labour council against Margaret Thatcher's government. He stood as the TUSC candidate for the Mayor of Liverpool council in May 2016, polling 4,950 votes (5.1%), coming in ahead of the Tories in Britain's eighth biggest city.

Another chance to beat the Tories

This year's election is for the new position of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority directly-elected Mayor. The councils within the Combined Authority area - Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral - are all solidly Labour-controlled authorities.

The election will be conducted on a preference vote basis, with electors able to vote for a first and second choice candidate. This system makes it easier for TUSC candidacies to be supportive of Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message while making sure that the Tories do not make electoral headway as TUSC voters would not use their second preference for the Tories.

In fact, the Tory candidate in the Metro-Mayor election is the same person who Roger defeated in 2016 - and who was also outpolled by the TUSC candidate, former Liverpool councillor Tony Mulhearn, in the 2012 Liverpool mayor election. What chance of a three-nil score for TUSC over the Tories?

Keep the guards on the train

One of the most important election issues is the dispute with Merseyrail over the plan to get rid of guards on trains and introduce Driver Only Operation (DOO) on the new stock that will come into service during the Metro-Mayor's first term of office.

The Merseyrail franchise is under the control of the Merseytravel committee of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority which, as stated, is completely controlled by Labour councillors.

They could stop the introduction of Driver Only Operation on Merseyrail now, striking a blow against the Tories' dangerous plans for safety on the railways not just in Merseyside but across Britain. But instead the right-wing Labour councillors are pushing it through and local Labour MPs are making no protest.

Where does Labour's candidate stand?

Unfortunately that includes the Labour Metro-Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram, the MP for Liverpool Walton, despite repeated efforts by TUSC to get him to come out against DOO. These efforts have included:

In August, Roger Bannister, as the TUSC Mersey Metro-Mayor spokesperson, wrote to Steve Rotheram, then just newly selected as Labour's candidate, asking to discuss with Steve to "see whether there's a meeting of minds between us about how the metro mayor position could be used to fight against cuts", including how to "defend the Merseyrail train guards".

In October, after the RMT issued a press release condemning 'Merseytravel's deafening silence' (which detailed the correspondence by the union with the Labour-run transport authority), Roger appeals to Steve Rotheram for a joint campaign to take on the Merseytravel bosses together.

In December, before a meeting of the Merseytravel committee discussing the DOO question, Roger again urges Steve Rotheram "to clarify your position in relation to Driver Only Operation on Merseyrail" with an encouragement to speak out against it. But, after the Labour-controlled Merseytravel committee votes to push ahead with DOO, and despite further RMT press releases carried by Liverpool Echo, Steve Rotheram again makes no comment.

If he won't stand up to the Tories - and right-wing Labour - on such a clear question of putting public safety ahead of private profit, on what issue would he stand up to them?

Fighting austerity in practise

Steve Rotheram voted for Andy Burnham in the 2015 leadership election although, like Burnham (but unlike others in the parliamentary Labour Party), he did not join the campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, serving as his parliamentary private secretary. That is why TUSC in Merseyside has consistently tried to open a dialogue with Steve since his selection as the Metro-Mayor candidate.

When, for example, Steve was quoted in an October 2016 interview with the Financial Times as saying that Labour "will become more Blairite again", the response was to contact him to seek clarification that this was a possibility he wanted to resist and, if he did, to offer support. But again he made no comment.

And then there is the issue of the cuts. The six Labour councils in the Liverpool City Region have this year agreed further budget cuts of over £90m between them - without a word of opposition from the region's Labour MPs.

Fighting austerity and cuts - not just in words but in practice - will be central to the TUSC Metro-Mayor campaign.

Public meeting

Come to the pre-election public meeting on Tuesday 2 May, starting at 7-30pm, at the Liverpool Pub, 14 James Street, Liverpool L2 7PQ.

For more information contact [email protected] or check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rogerbannisterformayor/