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Start now! TUSC launches campaign guide to organising for the general election

The Trade Unionist and Socialist (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee has published a first edition of a campaign pack, Organising for the General Election, available both as a PDF at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/General-Election-Campaign-Pack-July-2023.pdf, and in Word format at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/General-Election-Campaign-Pack-July-2023.docx.

The pack is aimed at all trade unionists, working class community and social movement campaigners, students fighting for free education, and socialists from any organisation or none, who want to see an alternative to establishment politicians available on the ballot paper at the next general election.

This first edition is being published in summer 2023, when the date of the general election is still unknown, except that it must be called no later than the end of 2024.  The results of the three by-elections on July 20th will hardly encourage Rishi Sunak to go early – whereas in December 2019 40% of the registered electorate in the three seats turned out to vote Conservative, this time just 15.5% found the enthusiasm to do so, dire even by 'normal' by-election standards.  But nevertheless, even if the general election is not held before the last possible date, planning for it has to begin now – nationally and, most importantly, locally too.

Jamie Driscoll should stand. And the left-led unions should back him.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee has welcomed the announcement by the current Mayor of the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll that he is planning to stand as Mayor of the North East Combined Authority in the elections for the new post that will take place next May.

At its latest meeting on July 19th the steering committee agreed that it would not accept any application to stand as a TUSC candidate in the mayoral election as long as Jamie remains as a declared candidate. 

Jamie Driscoll’s exclusion in June from Labour’s mayoral selection process – of someone regularly referred to in the establishment media as ‘the last Corbynista in office’ – was another example of how ruthless Sir Keir Starmer has been in his efforts to re-make the Labour Party as a safe alternative for the capitalist establishment, after the shock they all suffered during the period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.  

Jamie has still not been formally informed why he was excluded, as a sitting mayor. “I do stand on picket lines, I was on a picket line this morning with workers who are in dispute.  Perhaps that’s it, but honestly I do not know”, he told the BBC (June 2nd). 

Now, after appeals made on his behalf were ignored, including an open letter signed by eight left-wing trade union general secretaries – from ASLEF, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, POA (personal capacity), RMT, UCU (pc), and the URTU – Jamie has decided to stand as an independent against the recently announced official Labour candidate, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuiness.

For a single socialist candidate in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

The official petition to recall the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, Margaret Ferrier, opened for signatures on June 20, and will close at 5pm on July 31. If ten percent of the registered electors in the constituency sign the petition – 8,113 voters – a by-election will be held, probably in early October. This follows the suspension of Ferrier from the House of Commons on June 6, resulting from her conviction for breaking Covid regulations in September 2020 at the height of the pandemic. 

If the Recall Petition is successful Ferrier, elected as a Scottish National Party (SNP) MP in 2019 but sitting as an independent since 2020, will have the right to stand in the by-election. But the SNP is contesting the by-election even if Ferrier stands again, and the Scottish Labour Party have selected their candidate, Michael Shanks, who left the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in 2019 but is now their chosen representative. What better opportunity could there be for a socialist candidate to make an impactful statement for working class interests and socialism as an alternative to pro-capitalist politicians in their various hues?

To that end the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition hosted a public meeting in Rutherglen on May 17, appealing to local socialists and trade unionists to participate in a discussion on how to get a workers' candidate for the probable by-election. After further consultations, Chris Sermanni, a leading trade unionist who lives in the constituency, was selected as the Scottish TUSC candidate and announced to the media on May 26 (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/19288/29-05-2023/scottish-tusc-to-stand-in-rutherglen-and-hamilton-west/). Unfortunately, a month later, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) declared that it too has selected a candidate for the seat.

But with the by-election not likely to take place until the autumn there is still time to engage in constructive dialogue on agreeing a single socialist candidate in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West contest. The Scottish TUSC steering committee has written to this effect to the SSP, in a letter which we are publishing below. ■

RMT conference defies Starmer and backs Jeremy Corbyn to stand in the next election

The annual general meeting (AGM – conference) of the RMT transport workers’ union, held in Bournemouth from 26-29 June, agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn if he decides to stand in the next general election, including as an independent candidate.

Jeremy was formally debarred from standing for election as a Labour candidate by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) at its meeting on March 28th, in a motion presented by Sir Keir Starmer. The only way now for him to retain the seat he has held for 40 years will be to stand against the ‘official’ Labour candidate and, if he does so, he will now have the full backing of the RMT.

The AGM resolution supporting Jeremy, which we publish below, came from the union’s London Underground Engineering Branch. This was the old branch of the late Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary when the union was expelled from Tony Blair’s original ‘New Labour’ party in 2004, who went on to become the co-founder of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in 2010.

The AGM delegates decided not to embark on a full review of the union’s political strategy as proposed in another resolution – suggesting a special general meeting be held “in good time” for the general election which may be as early as next spring – but union branches can still support ‘under rule’ other trade union and socialist candidates who will be standing alongside Jeremy if he does decide to run.

Every day that passes confirms how closely tied Starmer’s Tony Blair-style ‘New Labour’ is to the capitalist establishment and its interests, in opposition to the interests of the working class. The RMT AGM decision in defiance of Starmer points to how our side needs to step up its preparations for the fight back. ■

The general election: TUSC national meeting discusses union debates and Plan B

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) all-Britain steering committee recently organised an open evening Zoom meeting to provide an opportunity to question the national TUSC officers  – TUSC chairperson Dave Nellist, the former socialist Labour MP (1983-1992), and the TUSC national agent, Clive Heemskerk – on the coalition’s thinking about the next general election.

Over 100 people logged in to what one of the TUSC individual members’ representatives on the steering committee, Pete McLaren, described as “in my view, an excellent meeting which gave TUSC members and supporters ample opportunity to discuss how we prepare the largest socialist challenge possible in the upcoming general election”. 

The TUSC Individual Members’ section is one of the component parts of the TUSC coalition with representation on the committee, along with the participating unions and socialist organisations, and individual leading trade unionists and anti-cuts councillors sitting in a personal capacity.  (You can follow the TUSC individual members on twitter at https://twitter.com/TUSCIndependent)  Pete’s full meeting report is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/PMcL-meeting-report-23-06-12.pdf

Below we publish a transcript of the introduction made to the meeting by Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC national election agent.

TUSC call on the Green Party not to stand against Jeremy Corbyn now an online petition

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has re-issued its Open Letter to the Green Party calling on them to declare that they will not stand a candidate in the Islington North parliamentary constituency if Jeremy Corbyn decides to contest the seat independently of the Labour Party at the next general election.

The letter was originally sent to the Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay in April, following the decision of the Labour Party’s national executive committee on March 28th that the party leader at the last general election would not be able to stand again as a Labour candidate. 

But with no response from the Green Party so far, and no indication that they would withdraw if Jeremy does decide to stand independently, the TUSC all-Britain steering committee has relaunched the Open Letter as an online petition to Carla and Adrian, which can be signed at https://chng.it/tKrLg8JN

Our NHS at 75: join the Northern March for the NHS, Leeds, 1st July

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has pledged its full support to the Northern March for the NHS organised by Health Campaigns Together, Keep Our NHS Public and other health campaigners across Yorkshire and the North on Saturday July 1st.

This is part of a series of protests and other events that have been organised to both celebrate the NHS and step up the campaigning that will be necessary to ensure it can beat the threats to its survival from the Tories – and Sir Keir Starmer’s Tony Blair-style New Labour! 

Preparing for the general election: join the Zoom discussion on TUSC’s plans

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has organised an evening Zoom meeting on Monday June 12th to outline the coalition’s thinking about the next general election (meeting details below).

The national TUSC officers – TUSC chairperson Dave Nellist, the former socialist Labour MP (1983-1992), and the TUSC national election agent, Clive Heemskerk – will report on the plans discussed to date by the TUSC All-Britain Steering Committee, with plenty of time available to question them.

Some of the issues that will be considered are contained in the recent letter sent to radical campaign groups and socialist organisations to discuss their plans with TUSC for the next general election (see https://www.tusc.org.uk/19275/24-05-2023/tusc-makes-new-appeal-to-left-wing-groups-to-discuss-general-election-plans/). 

These include the idea of local constituency campaigns for a workers’ candidate – rather than necessarily an early selection of parliamentary candidates – including organising delegations of trade unionists, student organisations, social movement campaigners etc to the local Labour prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), to see where they stand on the policies in Labour’s 2017 and 2019 manifestos under Jeremy Corbyn.  A model letter to PPCs is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/479.pdf.

But there will be other issues to look at too.  Such as how to use the May 2024 local elections as a ‘dry run’ for the general election (even if the general election is held on the same day, which wouldn’t be known until March).  Or the question of the ‘fair media coverage threshold’, which actually also applies for local elections too, the options on ballot paper descriptions, and so on. 

Scottish TUSC to stand in Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has announced that it will be standing in the by-election that is likely to take place in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West Westminster parliament constituency.

The by-election has yet to be formally declared with the current MP, Margaret Ferrier, facing an imminent vote in the House of Commons on whether to suspend her for 30 days following her conviction for breaking Covid regulations in September 2020 at the height of the pandemic.  If the suspension is upheld there will be a formal Recall Petition started in her constituency, open to Rutherglen and Hamilton West voters over a six-week period, which will force a by-election if ten per cent of the registered electors sign it. 

The procedure could be truncated and a by-election held earlier if Ferrier, elected as a Scottish National Party (SNP) MP in 2019 but now sitting as an independent, resigns.  It is also the case, if the petition is successful, that she will have the right to stand in the by-election, as the Tory MP Chris Davies did (unsuccessfully) in a previous recall by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire.

The SNP will be contesting the by-election, even if Ferrier stands again, and the Scottish Labour Party have selected their candidate, Michael Shanks.  The fact that Shanks had left the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership but is now their chosen representative – after publically admitting at the time that he “just couldn’t vote Labour” in the 2019 European parliament elections – shows how firmly the neo-Blairites have the Labour Party in their grip.

The Scottish TUSC steering committee, which includes leading Scottish trade unionists in a personal capacity and affiliated delegates from the CWU Scotland No.2 and Highland AMAL postal branches, has selected Chris Sermanni as its candidate.

Chris is a resident of Cambuslang, one of the biggest population centres in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency.  He is also the Unison shop stewards convener for Glasgow City Council’s Social Work Department, playing a leading role in the successful 2015 Homeless Caseworkers strike.  He is a member of Socialist Party Scotland.

Socialist victory rebuff to Starmer in North Yorkshire by-election

The North Yorkshire council by-election held last Thursday on May 25th was a significant rebuff to Sir Keir Starmer’s re-constitution of Labour as a revived Tony Blair-style New Labour party.

The by-election had been caused by the resignation of the sitting Labour councillor for the Eastfield division, Tony Randerson, who had quit as a Labour Party member and councillor in April in protest at the direction of Starmer’s leadership and the intervention of the national party to block local left-wingers as possible general election candidates for the Scarborough and Whitby parliamentary seat.

After feedback from local residents to his resignation Tony agreed to stand again in the by-election as a member of the newly-formed Social Justice Party, currently in the process of registering with the Electoral Commission. 

The result was a stunning victory, with Tony polling 499 votes (46.4%), ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate with 281 votes, and with the Tories coming in fourth with just 69 votes (6.4%).  Labour’s vote fell from 703 in the last election in May 2022 to 169 (15.7%) this time.  There was one Independent, with 39 votes, and the Green Party, who polled 19 votes (1.8%).

TUSC makes new appeal to left-wing groups to discuss general election plans

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) All-Britain Steering Committee has made a new appeal to radical campaign groups and socialist organisations to seriously discuss their plans with TUSC for the next general election.

At its first meeting after the May council elections, in which TUSC co-ordinated by far the biggest, clearly-identified working class electoral challenge (see the report at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Results-Report.pdf), the steering committee agreed that preparations for the general election must be urgently stepped up.

Sir Keir Starmer is on course for Number Ten after the May 4th results but, at the same time, is evermore clear that he would lead a Tony Blair Mark II type government, completely committed to defending the interests of the ruling, capitalist establishment.  And while debates will take place at some union conferences this year on the need for an independent workers’ alternative at the ballot box – in motions promoted in the main by TUSC supporters – it is by no means guaranteed that practical steps will be taken in time for the general election.  A ‘Plan B’, for an alliance of trade unionists, socialists and working class community and social movement candidates reaching the ‘fair media coverage’ threshold, needs to be agreed as soon as possible.

Last October TUSC wrote to over twenty campaign groups and socialist organisations inviting them to join the discussion about the general election: from Enough is Enough, Don’t Pay UK, Just Stop Oil, The People’s Assembly, and Acorn; to socialist groups like the Breakthrough Party, the Socialist Labour Network (the ‘Labour-in-exile’ group), the Northern Independence Party, Left Unity, the People’s Alliance of the Left (PAL), International Socialist Alternative UK, the Socialist Labour Party, the Communist Party of Britain, and the Socialist Workers Party.

But, as our latest letter published below says, “we make no apology for returning to this matter” six months or so later.  Now is the time to act ■

Scottish TUSC public meeting to discuss a workers’ election candidate for Rutherglen & Hamilton West

The Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is hosting a meeting in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency on Wednesday 17th May to discuss how a workers’ election candidate can be put in place for the Westminster by-election that is likely to be held there in the coming months.

Speakers at the meeting will include Chris Sermanni, Cambuslang resident, Scottish TUSC and Unison trade unionist, and strikers from various trade union disputes.

Chris said: “The Tories’ pro-bosses policies worsened the pandemic and have created economic disaster, increases in poverty, inflation austerity and a cost-of-living crisis. The need for a workers’ election alternative has never been greater”.

“In effect, this likely local by-election could be seen as a national barometer on the Scottish National Party’s record on the cost-of-living crisis, independence and a range of other issues. But the neo-Blairite domination of the Labour Party means they offer no alternative either for the working class. The workers’ movement must intervene with a trade union-backed socialist candidate”.



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