HomeLatest NewsConvention gathers in Birmingham to discuss united general election challenge

Convention gathers in Birmingham to discuss united general election challenge

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Representatives of twelve different campaign groups and socialist organisations are meeting this weekend (on Saturday 3rd) in a Convention to Organise a Working Class Challenge at the General Election. 

An agenda document has now been released by the Convention Arrangements Committee, which is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Convention-Agenda-document.pdf.

The Convention will start with an opening session which has been given the title, ‘Do we want a common election challenge? And is it possible?’.  Participating in this discussion will be the Convention co-hosting organisations – the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the Socialist Party, System Change (formerly Resist), the Campaign for a Mass Workers Party, the TUSC Independent Socialists, and Socialist Students – alongside the newly-formed Transform Party, the Social Justice Party, the Workers Party of Britain, and the Organising Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance (OCISA) campaign group who are promoting a single independent left candidacy for Sir Keir Starmer’s Holborn & St Pancras constituency seat.

One of the issues to be resolved in this session will be whether the participants believe that a joint election challenge should attempt to contest enough seats at the general election – at least 98 candidates – to reach the broadcasting authorities ‘fair media coverage’ qualifying threshold. 

This is sometimes misleadingly referred to only as a benchmark to qualify for a party election broadcast.  But while it does indeed guarantee an election broadcast – which is obviously not unimportant – it is more than that in providing a lever to achieve the biggest possible access for a socialist working class alternative message across all the establishment media outlets. 

Still time to register!

That is why, while it is welcome that twelve organisations are coming together in Birmingham to discuss what can be done, the Convention Arrangements Committee has also expressed its disappointment that not every socialist group considering standing candidates in the general election has so far taken up the invitation to attend.

Last November, for example, the Communist Party of Britain, a leading influence on the Morning Star newspaper, agreed at its biennial Congress “to contest as many constituencies in the forthcoming general election as resources reasonably allow in order to raise the red flag for public ownership, a wealth tax” etc, although it would not be able to reach the ‘fair media coverage’ threshold on its own.  So why not then collaborate with other socialists to most effectively ‘raise the red flag’, while preserving its own independent identity and profile?

The same point applies to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which rightly recognised at its annual conference in January that “an important section of the working class to whom we seek to relate will not vote Labour”, and that the “emergence of left alternatives to Labour is more important”.  Nevertheless, it went on, “none of the likely electoral challenges to the left of Labour are likely to ask the SWP to join as an independent revolutionary formation.  We could not consider membership on any other basis”. 

But that is precisely one of the proposals being discussed at the Convention – Proposition Five in the Convention agenda document – that “individual candidates and organisations participating in the joint election challenge shall retain at all times responsibility for their own campaigns, including the right to promote their own organisation and policies that go beyond the core platform”. 

If the SWP, or the Communist Party, feel that this is still too restrictive why not come to the Convention and explain what other guarantees they would need?  There’s still time!

The Convention is being held on Saturday and registration remains open – which can be done by completing the form at https://www.tusc.org.uk/convention_registration_form/

In-person attendance is open to any socialist organisation or campaign group that is considering supporting or standing candidates in the general election (who can appoint up to ten delegates); elected trade union officers or reps (attending in a personal capacity); resigned-from-Labour or independent socialist councillors; and individual members of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who are not members of one of the TUSC component organisations or organisations otherwise represented at the Convention.  The time has come to take decisions!

Zoom attendance is also available for visitors, who are asked to pay the same registration fee (£5 waged or £2 unwaged or low-waged) as in-person attendees to help meet the costs of the event. ■

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