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TUSC: Keeping up the pressure on the austerity parties
Clive Heemskerk, TUSC national nominating officer
The last fortnight has seen the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) contest two more council byelections, taking to five the number fought by TUSC since the nation-wide local polls in May.
In Lincoln East TUSC won a decent 6.8% share of the vote, polling one vote for every seven that went to the winning Labour candidate. This follows the third place won by TUSC in Liverpool's Riverside ward in early July, with 115 votes (6.2%), coming ahead of both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
Critics of TUSC, however, were quick to pounce on the score in Stoke's Springfield and Trent Vale ward where, in a field of nine candidates, TUSC came in with a squeezed 1.3% vote. But the Stoke result was hardly a vindication of the idea of fighting the Con-Dems by 'staying with Labour', which lost the seat to the City Independents' group. With seven councillors already at least verbally opposing the Labour-controlled council's cuts, the Independents were seen by many as the most effective way to protest at all the establishment parties.
Sweeping general conclusions cannot be drawn from a few council byelections, either 'writing off' TUSC or exaggerating the possibilities at this stage.
Across the five seats it has contested since May, for example, it is a fact that TUSC has polled more votes than the Greens. There have been five far-right candidates in these seats, including Ukip and, in Stoke, a BNP ex-councillor, but their aggregate vote is less than TUSC's. George Galloway's Respect party, meanwhile, has not contested a single byelection since May. But can any of these parties be dismissed as a future electoral force?
The most important fact is still the absence of a vehicle for working class political representation, given the transformation of the Labour Party and its broad acceptance of the capitalists' austerity agenda. Standing in elections as widely as possible is part of the task of building a workers' alternative.
Saturday 22 September, 11am-5pm
Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E
Registration £5 waged/£2 unwaged
Check out the TUSC website at www.tusc.org.uk