Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/717/14477
London elections - TUSC: A marker for future struggles
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party secretary
"I hadn't heard of you before, but I saw Trade Unionist on the ballot paper and I voted for it - I had to, I'm a worker."
These words of a porter at University College Hospital in central London on election day summed up the response TUSC campaigners had experienced on a daily basis.
The TUSC vote for the London Assembly (17,686 votes - 0.8%) undoubtedly will disappoint many TUSC supporters who hoped for better.
But it in no way reflects the response campaigners received from workplaces all over London during the campaign.
Socialist Party members visited hospitals, council workplaces, job centres, fire stations, tube stations, talking to workers about TUSC and the need for political representation for working class people.
Overwhelmingly we received a positive response: "They're all the same, we can't trust Labour anymore, it's about time trade unionists stood in elections."
Everywhere we went, workers took piles of the TUSC postcards to distribute themselves.
Unlike the Labour Party which turns its back on workers in struggle, we ensured the TUSC banner was present on every protest to bring our support. When there were strikes we visited picket lines - indeed, our candidates were among the organisers of the action!
The achievement of the London campaign was the backing and involvement of serious trade union forces.
This was the result of months of discussion, initiated by TUSC supporters in the RMT in London. The election list in London was backed by the transport union RMT, London Fire Brigades Union, and the general secretaries of both these unions and the POA prison officers' union - Bob Crow, Matt Wrack and Steve Gillan. These three unions all distributed the TUSC material themselves.
RMT president Alex Gordon headed the list, which included the Assistant General Secretary of the POA Joe Simpson, London organiser of the RMT Steve Hedley, and national executive members of the FBU (Ian Leahair), teachers union NUT (Martin Powell-Davies) and Unison (April Ashley).
The impressive list included firefighters, teachers, health workers, anti-cuts campaigners, construction activists, unemployed, and anti-racist and disability campaigners.
But, scandalously, there was a near blackout of the campaign in the mainstream press. We received a derisory two second flash on BBC London news.
In our view, this was quite deliberate. Bob Crow is one of the most well-known political figures in London after Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone.
It is a conscious decision by big business representatives and their media cronies.
They want to eliminate the voice that clearly and persistently says: "There is an alternative, ordinary working class people should not have to pay for this crisis."
What it did mean, however, was that we were likely to get a low vote. All the work we did could only scratch the surface in a city the size of London.
Additionally we were squeezed in the polarisation between Johnson and Livingstone for mayor, with trade unions campaigning and many workers voting for Livingstone through gritted teeth to try to oust Johnson.
TUSC did not stand for mayor, and many people, disappointed by Livingstone, seized on the Greens for an alternative mayoral candidate.
There was also the desire to punish the Tories by unseating their constituency assembly members, such as the hated Brian Coleman in Barnet, the architect of attacks on the fire service, where both the FBU and RMT backed the Labour candidate against him. Inevitably, this led to a focus on voting Labour.
TUSC only stood for the list part of the election, which was a form of proportional representation so that only 5% of the vote was needed to win an assembly seat.
This means that the argument commonly used by our opponents about a 'wasted vote' did not apply. But in the absence of publicity, many people would not have realised this.
Wally Kennedy, who organised the TUSC campaign in Hillingdon, including a meeting of nearly 70 local workers and anti-cuts campaigners, said to local TUSC supporters after the results: "Nearly 70% of the electorate did not vote on Thursday. The reality is that the vast majority of working class people have not yet spoken.
"The TUSC campaign, ignored by the media, hasn't yet managed to reach millions of working people. Those who didn't vote are our potential supporters."
For full election results see www.tusc.org.uk
In The Socialist 9 May 2012:
Socialist Party election analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
Reviews and comments