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Monday 25 April 2022

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TUSC welcomes Labour councillor as mood to resist Starmer's Tory-lite party grows

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) today welcomed Lydney councillor Steve Stockham into the anti-austerity alliance of socialists, trade unionists and working class community campaigners.

Steve, a Labour member of Lydney town council in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, announced his switch to TUSC on Saturday, ripping up his party card as he spoke at a public meeting in Swindon alongside the TUSC all-Britain chairperson and former Labour MP Dave Nellist.

"I've been a Labour supporter and voter for all of my adult life", Steve said in a statement explaining his decision, "and since the mid-1990s was a member for two spells. My activist journey began when I was elected NUS first year rep at college followed by time with the NUJ, NUPE, the Post Office Workers union and UNISON with my final job before retiring".

"I joined the Labour Party in the mid-1990s, worked on our successful campaign of 1997, and stood in the following county council elections. Like many socialists I left the party after the declaration of the Iraq war and the obvious embracing of neo-liberal free market economics by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson".

Enthused by Jeremy Corbyn

"I re-joined in 2017, enthused by Jeremy Corbyn's vision of a socialist Britain as I still thought that the industrial/political class would allow socialism if it gained enough popular support. The mass media smear campaign and hatchet job on Jeremy Corbyn in the run up to the 2019 elections showed just how wrong I had been".

"By this time I had become chair of my local branch and a Labour member of Lydney town council, but was suspended by Starmer in December 2020 for allowing my branch to discuss national policy decisions. I'm still suspended 16 months later with no recourse to appeal".

"The current Labour leadership with its support of neo-liberalism, anti-democratic actions, and complete lack of support for the working class, has left me embarrassed to be associated with it. TUSC on the other hand stands for everything a socialist wants: anti-austerity, in favour of re-nationalisation of utilities, support for the NHS, a fair distribution of wealth etc".

"The status quo acts against social change and grass roots movements such as TUSC are our best hope, which is why I am proud to transfer my political allegiance as a town councillor to TUSC".

Being TUSC a clearer signal than 'independent'

The TUSC national election agent, Clive Heemskerk, welcomed Steve's move as indicative of a growing mood of determination to resist Keir Starmer's revival of Tony Blair-style New Labour politics, including at the ballot box. But also because of the signal it sends.

"There are over a dozen TUSC candidates in May's local elections who were previously Labour councillors or Labour Party council candidates from the time of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership who have decided to carry on the fight for anti-austerity, socialist policies by standing, this time, under the TUSC umbrella - and Steve's principled decision to become a TUSC councillor is part of that trend".

"Standing as TUSC - or forming a TUSC group on a council - is a more politically significant step than describing yourself only as 'Independent'. That actually doesn't distinguish you not just from other well-meaning individuals but also the ex-Tories or former UKIPers who often hide their real policies under the 'independent' label".

"Nor does it give a signal that what is needed is a national alternative to Starmer's Tory-lite party, or the role that the trade unions must play in giving an alternative real authority. While TUSC is only a step towards the new, working class party that we need, using the description, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, couldn't make it clearer where you stand - in an election or as a councillor".

A coalition of equals open to all socialists

"The TUSC umbrella is open to all, with the only qualification being that candidates - and councillors - accept the ten core policies in the TUSC local elections policy platform. TUSC councillors will not sit in the town hall and vote for cuts, closures, privatisation or other austerity politics".

"But the core policies are a minimum commitment, not a maximum, and individuals and organisations participating within the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are unequivocally able to preserve their own identities, promote the organisations they may be members of, and highlight any additional policies and issues that they may also wish to campaign on".

"TUSC is an inclusive coalition of equals with no one group able to dominate over others, operating on a consensus basis - nothing is agreed unless everyone agrees. This applies to the All-Britain steering committee but locally as well - including where sitting councillors come on board".

"The TUSC 'umbrella' federal approach, we believe, is well-adapted to the situation we face under Starmer's Labour leadership - to build the widest possible united anti-austerity socialist resistance at the ballot box and in the council chambers".

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is fielding 274 candidates in the council elections on May 5th, in 69 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. The full list of candidates, and the seats they are contesting, is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/469.pdf

The minimum policy pledges signed up to by every TUSC candidate, the TUSC local elections core policy platform, can be found at https://www.tusc.org.uk/17627/22-02-2022/tuscs-core-policy-platform-for-the-may-2022-local-elections