Bristol TUSC campaigners

Bristol TUSC campaigners   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

As the democratic credentials of ‘official politics’ are being increasingly questioned, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) recently chalked up a modest victory against establishment efforts to prevent alternative voices from being heard.

In the contests held this May for the directly-elected Mayors of Bristol and Liverpool councils the TUSC candidates suffered what can only be described as political censorship of the election addresses they submitted for inclusion in the mayoral election booklets distributed to every elector.

There are rules about the content of the address, that it should not be used for commercial gain or, regarding its political content, that it must not contain “any material referring to any other candidate”.

What the rules don’t say, however, is that the candidate cannot refer to “the Tory government’s demands for cuts” or state that right-wing “Liverpool Labour is slashing our public services”! But those were two of the deletions that were demanded by the returning officers in Bristol and Liverpool from the election addresses submitted by the TUSC candidates.

Now, five months later, after formal complaints to the returning officers in the two cities, the national Electoral Commission has conceded that the councils’ officers were making their own interpretation of the law when they insisted on amendments to the TUSC election addresses.

In other words what happened was indeed an exercise in political censorship.