The 7 May general election will be seen by many as an opportunity to ditch the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition that has imposed the widest and deepest austerity for generations.
The first few days of January saw the 'formal' opening of the 2015 general election campaign. Many newspapers marked it by predicting the closest election for many years.
They were mainly referring to the outcome. Currently neither Labour nor the Tories seem likely to gain a working majority without support from another smaller party. But the description could even more accurately apply to the narrow political terrain on which the action is to be fought.
All four national parties of the establishment - Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Ukip - are united in the central message of 'eliminating the deficit'. Despite, in some areas, plans already being in place for mass closures of libraries, community centres, children and family centres and most adult education - cuts sufficient to 'balance the budget' in the next parliament would need to be at least 50% greater in the next four years than the last. A horrifying prospect.
Even the Greens agree the necessity for cuts. Shortly before Christmas, on the BBC Daily Politics programme, Green leader Natalie Bennett said that, as part of a 'confidence and supply agreement', Green MPs would support a Labour cuts budget as a better alternative to a Tory cuts budget.
So what do you do if you're fundamentally opposed to continued wage freezes, the sacking of hundreds of thousands of public sector workers and the axing of essential public services?
You need something new.
The only prospect for trade unionists wishing to see serious political opposition to the continued diet of austerity from the main parties is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). We need to push forward the development of TUSC into a viable electoral alternative.
That underlies the importance of the conference organised by TUSC on 24 January to discuss the May 2015 general election and local authority elections campaigns.
TUSC has set an ambitious target for next year's elections: 1,000 anti-cuts candidates in local council wards and 100 anti-austerity candidates in parliamentary constituencies. This would be the largest left of Labour, working class and socialist alternative, seen since the Second World War.
If these numbers can be achieved it should entitle TUSC to 'balanced media coverage' in the election period - including TV election broadcasts in England, Scotland and Wales.
The conference will be an opportunity for TUSC activists, candidates and organisers to meet others who are building an alternative to the austerity parties in their areas. Sessions at the conference will discuss the core policies, for both a general election and the local elections, on which TUSC candidates will stand in May.
Debates between the main four national parties will exaggerate synthetic differences of policy and artificially exaggerate secondary issues. Only the widespread standing of serious anti-austerity alternative candidates, rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class, can offer a genuine alternative in May.
Registration fee: £10 waged and £2 unwaged/low-waged
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation. It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA, as well as the Socialist Party and other left and anti-cuts groups and individuals.