TUSC steering committee agrees plans for future election strategy
AT A TIME when growing numbers of people across Europe are turning to anti-austerity alternatives at the ballot box, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee met on June 13th to discuss its plans for contesting future elections here in Britain.
The next scheduled national contest will be the May 2013 elections for 35 non-metropolitan county councils and other authorities in England (and Anglesey council in Wales), with nearly 2,500 seats to be filled. TUSC national chairperson Dave Nellist, who was himself a county councillor in the 1980s before going on to be the MP for Coventry South East from 1983-1992, said:
“While next year’s cycle of council elections will see fewer seats contested than this year or 2011, the county council elections are vital for the 24 million people who use the key services these councils administer – from education, adult social services and libraries, to youth provision, planning and regeneration, highways and emergency services”.
“These councils spend over £43 billion on public services, employing over 750,000 workers, and are facing a third year of savage cuts in central government funding”.
“With growing public opposition to austerity, in Britain as in Greece, Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe, there couldn’t be a more opportune time for the widest-ever election challenge to be organised on TUSC’s clear local elections policy platform of opposing all cuts in council jobs, services, pay and conditions; resisting the privatisation of council jobs and services or their transfer to half-way house ‘social enterprises’; and pushing councils to set budgets that meet the needs of local communities and to demand that the government makes up any funding shortfall”.
TUSC is appealing to trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to come forward as prospective candidates now and start preparing for the 2013 elections. TUSC’s local elections policy will be debated at the TUSC supporters national conference on September 22nd.
Bristol and Manchester
There are two other elections coming up which the steering committee also debated. It was agreed that there should be a TUSC candidate in the Bristol mayoral election on November 15th, following the vote in May’s referendum to establish a directly-elected mayor.
Strong criticism was made of the ‘executive mayor’ system of running councils, which actually erodes local democracy. It is easier for one person, elected every four years, to take unpopular decisions to favour big business interests and cut or privatise services, than it is for support for such decisions to be won amongst a wider group of councillors who have to justify themselves to local electors (with most councils having annual elections for a third of the seats).
But, it was felt, if a mayoral system is established the election provides a platform for a clear alternative to the pro-austerity establishment parties, as was shown in Liverpool in May, when the TUSC candidate polled 4,792 votes (4.73%), beating both the Tories and UKIP. The Bristol mayoral contest offers such an opportunity.
The steering committee also discussed the need for a trade union-rooted anti-austerity candidate in the parliamentary by-election in Manchester Central, also likely to be held on November 15th, where the sitting Labour MP Tony Lloyd is standing down to contest the police commissioner elections.
The TUSC steering committee has already written to Respect, which has announced its intention to stand in the Manchester seat (and also, for the Bristol mayor), to discuss possible electoral collaboration in such contests. We hope for an urgent response.
1. Profiles of the councils with elections in 2013 can be found at www.tusc.org.uk/docs/2013_elections_-_council_profiles.doc with the number of seats up for election in each council, and information on population, the councils’ general fund (non-capital) budgets and the approximate size of each council’s workforce.
2. The Bristol Mayoral election is set by legislation to take place on November 15th, with nominations officially closing in mid-October. The Manchester Central parliamentary by-election has not yet been declared, although it is expected to be held on November 15th. If so, nominations would close on November 1st. Until such time, of course, anyone declaring an intention to stand is only a ‘prospective candidate’.