7 May 2013
TUSC to stand in Southampton by-election as Labour cuts leader quits
Protests against Labour's budget cuts
THE Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is contesting a Southampton by-election caused by the resignation of the council’s Labour leader, Richard Williams, who quit his seat and dramatically walked out of the council chamber on April 25th.
A meeting of Southampton TUSC supporters on Thursday agreed to nominate Sue Atkins, a Labour Party member from 1967 to 1992 and former chair of Southampton UNISON, as a candidate for the subsequent by-election, with the full backing of Southampton ‘rebel councillors’, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, who were expelled from the Labour Party last year for opposing council cuts.
Richard Williams resigned as a councillor after a report criticised him for spinning – lying in other words – about why one of the rebel anti-cuts councillors, Keith Morrell, had resigned from the Labour council cabinet back in May 2012.
Labour had just won control of Southampton for the first time since 1999 and Keith had been appointed as cabinet member for improvement and efficiency. But within days it was clear that Labour would not keep the promises it made in opposition to defend council services and so Keith resigned, writing to Richard Williams explaining why.
Unwilling to accept his resignation on such political grounds, Williams issued a press release claiming Keith had resigned due to ill health!
Over the subsequent months Keith and Don have proved their political fitness by challenging the decisions of the Labour group to implement Con-Dem cuts. With the backing of council unions Unite and Unison they fought the closure of Oaklands swimming pool and were suspended and then expelled from the Labour Party for doing so.
They supported the campaign to defend youth services from closure and presented a 'no cuts' budget amendment to the council budget meeting in February. So fearful were Labour of allowing such ideas to be publicly debated they refused to allow the no cuts amendment to be heard (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/press180213.php).
But the pressure on the Labour group and its leader has grown as the impact of the cuts is being felt. Council worker union leaders have been vocal in criticising the Labour councillors as jobs and services are cut.
The unravelling of what was another example of New Labour spin over Keith's 2012 cabinet resignation may have been the apparent trigger for Williams walking – but the real reason is the growing opposition in the city to the establishment parties’ shared austerity agenda. Now there’s a chance to turn up the heat by voting for Sue Atkins in the Woolston by-election!
TUSC is also contesting a by-election for the Walkergate ward of Newcastle city council, whose Labour majority passed a £100 million three-year cuts programme back in March. The TUSC candidate is Bobbie Cranny, who was one of the participants in the 2011 Youth Fight For Jobs Jarrow March, backed by six national trade unions – she was one of the marchers who completed the whole route from the north east to London.
Help TUSC’s election campaigning
There’s no election deposit to pay to stand in a local council election. But campaign material still has to be paid for and, of course, you can’t anticipate when a by-election is going to happen. Could you help the campaigns in Southampton and Newcastle – or any other by-elections that may come up – by making a donation to the TUSC national election fund?
There’s a PayPal facility on the TUSC website (at http://www.tusc.org.uk/donate.php) or you can send cheques, made payable to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, to TUSC, 17 Colebert House, Colebert Avenue, London, E1 4JP.