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Posted on 10 May 2016 at 14:34 GMT

Over 1,700 votes for TUSC in Warrington

Warrington anti-cuts councillor Kevin Bennett speaking at the 2015 TUSC conference, photo Senan

Warrington anti-cuts councillor Kevin Bennett speaking at the 2015 TUSC conference, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

Hugh Caffrey

Following a tremendous campaign with huge support from local residents, TUSC Councillor Kevin Bennett missed out on re-election in Fairfield and Howley by a narrow margin. Polling 921 votes, Kevin was behind the third-placed Labour candidate in the three-seat ward by only 76 votes.

Dozens of residents have already contacted Kevin and TUSC with congratulations on an outstanding campaign, especially in Fairfield and Howley, but also in wards across the town.

We secured a very creditable 360 in nearby Poulton South coming second; 138 votes in Great Sankey South; 129 in Bewsey-Whitecross where the Labour Party was going all-out to win; 88 in Latchford West; and 83 in Latchford East. And our votes compare well with the opposition parties already represented on the council.

Labour looked terrified in the weeks, days and hours running up to the Fairfield and Howley result being announced. Right up to the last minute at the count, it looked like it could go either way and Labour Party members privately confessed that their figures showed us pipping them to the seat.

In the event, it went the other way. But Kevin and TUSC supporters are rightly proud of a fighting, socialist campaign, rooted in the best traditions of the working class movement, against Blairite opponents offering only the worst traditions of Blairism.

Kevin Bennett said:

"It has been a privilege to serve the people of Fairfield and Howley as their TUSC councillor. I will continue to campaign to help the most vulnerable in Warrington who are hit hardest by the Tory-Labour cuts from the council and government.

Instead of the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn, Warrington Labour will continue with the politics of Tony Blair, slashing our public services and failing our residents, especially the most vulnerable.

The campaign to save our school crossing patrols and the YMCA will continue. I will be working with my TUSC colleagues to re-launch Warrington Against Cuts, to bring together everyone determined to defend our public services and those who rely on and provide them. There is no longer an anti-cuts voice in the council chamber, therefore we will build it up within our communities and our workplaces. 921 votes is a strong start to build from!"

TUSC is the real anti-establishment party and this was clear throughout the campaign from the reaction of the local establishment! From nomination papers knocked back on the flimsiest of excuses, to Labour's smears overlooked by the authorities, to demands that we pack up our polling day stall "or we'll take it down for you", it was clear that the ruling party was using every advantage of power that it could.

School crossing patrols throughout the town will have their funding withdrawn this year. TUSC distributed 5,000 leaflets throughout the ward explaining this, launching a 'Save Our Lollipops' campaign, and urging residents to display a poster in their window pledging support for the campaign and to vote for Kevin.

As these went up in windows across the ward, Labour appeared panic-stricken. Less than two days before Warrington went to the polls, an anonymous 'council spokesperson' claimed in the local media that the service was safe 'for the foreseeable future'. This of course could only help the Labour candidates' claim that TUSC was exaggerating the cuts, as we heard that at least one of our Labour opponents was doing while badmouthing Kevin on any doorstep he wasn't swiftly ejected from!

We responded by leafleting the main schools in the ward with a response explaining "The TRUTH about the crossing patrol cuts", in response to which one parent said that when she saw the council's claims she just automatically assumed Labour was "lying again".

TUSC out-campaigned Labour at every stage. The most active sections of the electorate in Fairfield and Howley rallied to TUSC and continue to do so even after the result.

Greens took votes

When we approached the Greens on whether they would withdraw in Fairfield and Howley on the basis that Warrington TUSC would reciprocate in their target seats, the Greens responded that Kevin's ward was the only ward in Warrington that they would not withdraw from!

The Greens had no campaign, no intention to win the seat, but with the media profile their party has nationally, they polled 344 votes. Had even a quarter of their votes gone to TUSC instead, Kevin would have held his seat.

Kevin has been a trade unionist for decades and is currently a member of Unite the Union, elected to its regional committee. Unite's policy - and private promises from certain leading Unite figures - is to support anti-austerity councillors, including those such as Kevin who have been driven out of neoliberal New Labour.

Unite's regional committee met during the electoral period and decided to not circulate to Unite members the official position of Unite's local government national committee - which is to call on councillors to oppose cuts and fight austerity in a manner similar to that which Kevin and TUSC are doing.

The only winners from this shameful lack of support for one of the union's own members in a key public position are the Blairite cutters and their Tory bosses in Number 10.

Warrington Labour will now repay the electorate not with the policies of Corbyn, but the policies of Liz Kendall and Tony Blair. Services for the old and the young, the homeless and the ill, and for entire communities such as waste disposal, face devastation. Kevin and Warrington TUSC will stand in the first rank of those fighting to defend residents from this onslaught.
On that basis we remain confident of winning more support in the local communities, workplaces and the polling booths in the future.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 May 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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