Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/743/15726
Building working-class political representation
With a £5,000 deposit required to get on to the ballot paper - but with no candidates' freepost mailshot available - TUSC did not field any candidates in the Police Commissioner elections held on 15 November, dubbed by the media as Britain's 'super Thursday' with 40 million people eligible to vote.
But TUSC did stand candidates in the Manchester Central parliamentary byelection, the Bristol mayoral election, and three council byelections, held on the same day.
In the council byelections, TUSC's vote ranged from 3.9% in Rugby's New Bilton ward to 2.2% in Manchester Ardwick ward - although in Liverpool's Knotty Ash ward Charley Cosgrove outpolled both the Conservatives and the Greens.
Ukip polled more votes than TUSC in four of the contests but not overwhelmingly so - despite Nigel Farage's Question Time season ticket (while TUSC faces a media blackout).
In reality not too much can be drawn from a handful of electoral contests, either 'writing off' TUSC or exaggerating the possibilities at this stage. The most important fact is still the absence of a vehicle for working class political representation, given Labour's broad acceptance of the capitalists' austerity agenda. Standing in elections is part of the struggle to build one.
The main losers in the Manchester Central byelection were the establishment parties. New Labour lost 10,000 votes. The Lib Dems and Tories lost about 85% of their 2010 election vote.
The turnout of 18.2%, the lowest in any byelection since World War Two, also squeezed the TUSC campaigns in Manchester Central for MP, vote 220, and Ardwick ward for council. Nonetheless, we believe we laid down the basis for TUSC to build in the future.
Manchester Central has the second-highest unemployment rate in England and Wales. 20,000 people are on the social housing waiting list. Yet a whole estate that could house 100 families is boarded up and standing empty after the council handed it over to developers.
Our campaign, focusing on workplaces and communities, was supported by trade unionists from across the city, especially from the RMT transport workers' union.
In the only husting, we comprehensively defeated the mainstream parties, including the Greens. Supporters of other candidates applauded our policies rather than the insipid positions put forward by the main parties.
The decimated turnout reflected widespread rejection of the Tory idea of police commissioners and the failure of the mainstream media to cover the byelection in any depth. We suffered a total blackout from the establishment media despite running one of the most visible campaigns.
Unfortunately, we also faced competition from George Galloway's Respect party, which put forward a candidate at the last minute. This was after Respect's initial candidate, Kate Hudson, stepped down following Galloway's comments on rape.
TUSC nationally had written to Respect to seek to coordinate electoral challenges but so far they have not been prepared to talk. Respect finished below TUSC in this byelection, but a combined left vote could have outpolled the far-right, racist BNP.
In Ardwick ward, TUSC's candidate Shari Holden beat the BNP. This shows the potential for the working class, anti-cuts alternative put forward by TUSC to drive back the far right.
Supporters in our city will be now discussing what steps to take to build TUSC.
Alex Davidson, TUSC Manchester Central candidate
Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts (TUSC) gained 1,412 first preference votes in the election for mayor of Bristol. For comparison the Liberal Democrats, who lead the city council, polled just over 6,000 votes while the Greens, with two city councillors, managed 5,248 votes.
This was a creditable result given the large number of competitors and marks a step forward for TUSC in the city. Unfortunately, we were also up against a candidate from Respect - selected without an attempt to discuss with TUSC - although a combined vote of almost 3,000 shows a good growth in support for anti-cuts candidates.
Despite spending a tiny fraction of the £60,000 the top two candidates both sunk into the election, we were able to bring an anti-austerity, socialist alternative to a wide audience. We got an unprecedented amount of coverage from the local paper, TV and radio - over 30 mentions in all.
Socialist Party members provided the backbone of the campaign with daily activity. Members of the Bristol rail branch of the RMT gave not only a donation but also actively helped to distribute material.
The winner of the election was the 'independent' George Ferguson, a former Lib Dem and millionaire businessman. Such is the disillusionment in the main parties that he was able to win despite a virtual silence about what he stands for.
Labour was the strong favourite up until the election itself. However, without offering a real alternative to the Con-Dem cuts, it was unable to gain enough votes.
Figures show a huge gulf in the turnout between wealthier parts of the city and working class wards, a gap of almost four to one at its widest.
With the new mayor pledging to announce over £25 million of cuts in the next six weeks the fight to defend jobs and services goes on. The TUSC campaign took the arguments against austerity to a wider audience and has put it in a strong position to play an important role in that fightback.
Tom Baldwin, Bristol TUSC mayoral candidate
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation. Its backers include the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.
Find out more at www.tusc.org.uk
In The Socialist 21 November 2012: