Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/843/20092
'TUSC has my values and principles'
Warrington rebel councillor Kevin Bennett speaks to the Socialist
Warrington anti-cuts councillor Kevin Bennett has left the Labour Party to become a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) representative.
The local Warrington Guardian paper, under the headline 'Enough is enough', reported how Kevin reached the end of the road in trying to fight austerity as part of the Labour Party.
Kevin was indefinitely suspended by the council Labour group in April 2013 after voting against the Labour-led council's cuts budget. A 70-strong lobby of trade unionists and community campaigners took place outside the suspension meeting in support of Kevin's courageous stand.
Hugh Caffrey interviewed Kevin about his move to TUSC.
What made you to leave the Labour Party?
It was after five years of intimidation, bullying, humiliation in some respects, with two of those years suspended from the Labour group of councillors; basically because I wanted to put my point of view across within it.
On many occasions I was stopped from doing this, so ultimately I voted against the budget cuts. Obviously I didn't agree with the cuts but part of the reason was I couldn't have an input through the Labour group.
I was dragged into the whips' office on several occasions, saying I shouldn't be sending emails to them, so I had no alternative but to do what I did.
You'll now be sitting as a TUSC councillor through until May 2016, what drew you to TUSC?
I think it was a natural progression. When I got suspended, it opened doors to go round the north-west speaking to anti-cuts groups, socialists, that kind of thing.
It made me think: 'Well, I feel more comfortable here than I do anywhere, they're speaking my language, they've got my values and principles.'
I met some good comrades along the way, and I've kept in touch with those throughout my suspension. I think it's always been at the back of my mind that that's where I wanted to go, but I wanted to be thrown out of the Labour group and party kicking and screaming.
I think I fought within Labour for as long as I could. I did as much as I could to stay but ultimately, because of my views, they were trying to push me out anyway.
It came to a head, and TUSC was the obvious way to go because of the policies which I agree with. I was welcomed with open arms. I wasn't asked to do or say things, or not to say things, they accepted me as I am. I feel like I've come home.
You're running on behalf of TUSC in the Warrington South parliamentary seat at the general election. Tell us a bit about what you've got in mind for the campaign.
I'm looking to raise the profile of TUSC within Warrington South. We've already got Warrington Against the Cuts and Warrington Trades Council here, so I'm hoping to build on that.
People have started contacting me, wishing me well, so hopefully we'll get more activists together to go out leafleting and give people an alternative to the old parties where people can't see a difference.
Democracy is about choice and that's what I want to give people. So hopefully the group will build, we're holding public meetings and inviting people along who've wished me good luck and expressed an interest.
I am who I am. My background is the union, I come from a council estate, I will never sell out. I'm not a careerist. I think people deserve that choice.
TUSC public meeting
Wednesday 18 February, 7pm
The King's Head pub, 40 Winwick Street, Warrington, Cheshire WA2 7TU, opposite Central Station
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation. In May 2015 it aims to stand 100 parliamentary and 1,000 council candidates.
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.
In The Socialist 11 February 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns