South West London TUSC. Photo Berkay Kartav
South West London TUSC. Photo Berkay Kartav

The September meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) All-Britain steering committee has agreed to a series of public discussion meetings to be held over the autumn months under the heading, ‘Enough is Enough! But what do we do at the ballot box?’.

The aim is to provide forums on as wide a scale as possible to discuss how a working-class alternative can be put in place for the next general election.

In her first speech as prime minister, Liz Truss said she would go to the polls in 2024: with December that year being the last date the general election could be called. But facing the economic, political and social storms ahead, with a ‘mandate’ from just 81,326 Tory party members – less than half the number of workers on strike against the cost-of-living crisis only days before her elevation – it could well be a lot earlier than that.

One thing is clear about the next general election, the steering committee agreed: whichever establishment party or combination of parties wins, they will continue with policies that favour the rich – and not make the fundamental system change needed to end the cost-of-living and other crises facing the rest of us.

Back to Blairism

This includes Sir Keir Starmer’s revived Tony Blair-style New Labour party. Renationalisation of the energy companies, for example, was a core part of Labour’s manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Taking them back into public ownership to lower energy bills is supported by one opinion poll after another. But not by the honourable Sir Keir! Instead he says that he has “put the last manifesto to one side. The slate is wiped clean”.

And it’s not just renationalising energy. Pledges to take back Royal Mail, the water companies and public transport, or to introduce an NHS-equivalent free National Care Service, are being ‘wiped clean’ too.

And what about abolishing university tuition fees and restoring student maintenance grants? The 2019 pledges for a green industrial revolution? Or abolishing the anti-trade union laws that restrict our rights to fight back?

Everything possible is being done by Starmer and his shadow cabinet to reassure the establishment that their free market, profit-before-people system – capitalism by its proper name – will be safe in New Labour’s hands.

A workers’ alternative is possible

But wouldn’t a Starmer Labour government at least be more susceptible to our concerns than the Tories? Actually, they would only think to ‘look over their left shoulder’ if they felt challenged there. Including at the ballot box.

And that is eminently possible in these times. If even a couple of trade unions, like the RMT, CWU or Unite, organised an independent working-class coalition for the next general election, it could realistically expect to get at least a bloc of MPs elected to stand up to the establishment politicians. That could include Jeremy Corbyn, who won’t be able to stand again for Labour, and any other left-wing Labour MP forced out by Starmer.

But even if such an electoral alternative is not organised by the union leaders, there should be the biggest possible trade union, socialist, environmentalist and anti-austerity election challenge mounted anyway to keep the pressure on.

Which is why TUSC is hosting an autumn tour of public discussion meetings to debate what needs to be done. Because another thing is clear: if we don’t fight for change, nothing will change.

Organising an election challenge

But different groups and individuals accepting the need for an election challenge is only the first step, the TUSC steering committee agreed. For a start there are election laws to follow.

An election campaign cannot appear on the ballot paper under any name it likes. It has to register as a political party or coalition with the Electoral Commission and can only do so with a name, and a logo, not the same as or similar to one already registered.

If individuals stand outside of a registered group they can describe themselves as ‘Independent’. But this makes it hard for voters to distinguish them from other ‘independents’, some of whom are well-meaning but many of whom are ex-Tories or former Ukipers hiding their policies.

And legally the media only has to give ‘fair coverage’, including a party election broadcast, to a registered party or coalition. And then only to those standing candidates under their registered names in 15% of the seats – 98 in a general election. To get 98 candidates onto the ballot paper costs a minimum of £48,000, to pay the £500 election deposit for each.

Many groups and individuals will want to take on the establishment parties. Good, the steering committee agreed. But then we need to be serious about organising a coordinated election challenge to beat these hurdles and make the maximum impact possible.

What can TUSC offer?

TUSC was set up in 2010 to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists of any party or none to stand candidates against the pro-austerity establishment parties under a common umbrella. It was co-founded by the then general secretary of the RMT transport workers’ union, the late Bob Crow.

TUSC is a federal coalition of equals, with no one group able to dominate over others. It operates on a consensus basis – nothing is agreed in the name of the coalition unless everyone agrees, which creates a momentum to reach mutually acceptable positions.

This also means that every participant has full freedom to pursue their own political activities in their own name. In elections, groups and individuals have autonomy to run their own campaigns. The only qualification is that, to use the TUSC name and logo, candidates are expected to endorse the TUSC minimum core policy platforms for the general election and local council elections.

The steering committee is currently preparing the policy platform for the next general election and is inviting trade union organisations, socialist groups, expelled Labour Party members, social movement campaigns and others to join in the process – including taking part in the autumn discussion meetings.

With the inclusive approach that has characterised the coalition, hundreds of candidates have felt comfortable to stand in elections under the TUSC name, polling over 450,000 votes in total since it was formed. TUSC did not contest the 2017 and 2019 general elections, with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, but in 2015 stood 135 candidates. Coming from a variety of different organisations and none, it showed what TUSC can offer this time too: an ‘umbrella coalition’ that works.

  • As dates for the autumn tour are finalised they will be listed on the TUSC website at Check it out for a meeting near you – or, if there isn’t one nearby but you’d be prepared to get a meeting going yourself, contact the TUSC steering committee for any support we can offer at [email protected]