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European elections: a workers' alternative to New Labour takes shape
No2EU - Yes to Democracy press launch, photo Suzanne Beishon
THE No2EU-Yes to Democracy electoral coalition, led by the RMT rail workers' union, took a big step forward last week when the national steering committee met to discuss the campaign's candidates for June's European elections.
Some regional lists still need to be finalised and funds are urgently needed to make a maximum impact. But the campaign is set to appear on the ballot paper in every one of Britain's eleven electoral 'regions', including Scotland and Wales. This will qualify No2EU-Yes to Democracy for a party election TV broadcast and make it easier to insist on other media coverage.
The full slate of candidates will be announced on May Day. Among the prospective candidates selected so far are important representatives of workers in struggle against the effects of the capitalist economic crisis.
As the RMT gears up for action to defend jobs, pay and conditions on London Underground, the No2EU London list will be headed by Bob Crow, RMT general secretary. Elsewhere, there are four other RMT executive members and a regional secretary standing.
In the Yorkshire and Humberside region, where the Lindsey oil refinery construction workers' dispute erupted earlier this year, the list includes Keith Gibson, a Socialist Party member who was elected to the Lindsey strike committee.
As The Socialist has previously explained, Lindsey was a victory for the working class, but it took the conscious intervention of the strike leadership, in which Keith played an important role, to cut across any national or racial divisions that could have derailed the movement.
With fellow Lindsey worker and shop steward John McEwan also standing, in the East Midlands region, the presence of socialists such as these on the lists answers those who claim the No2EU campaign is pandering to 'narrow nationalism'.
Visteon workers fighting against the brutal closure of their plants are represented by Frank Jepson, convenor of the Basildon factory (Eastern region list), and former Enfield convenor, Ron Clarke (London). They join Rob Williams, the convenor of the former Visteon plant in Swansea, now owned by Linamar, who is standing in Wales.
Paul Malyan, one of the CWU postal workers' union activists at the Burslem delivery office, victimised by Royal Mail as a prelude to New Labour's privatisation plans, is on the West Midlands list. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, the former Labour MP for Coventry South East from 1983 to 1992, tops the list there.
The North West list is headed by Socialist Party member Roger Bannister, a national executive committee (NEC) member of the public sector workers' union, Unison. Fellow NEC member Jean Thorpe is standing in the East Midlands. Onay Kasab, Greenwich Unison branch secretary and one of the 'Unison four' currently facing expulsion for fighting for democracy within the union, is on the London list.
Other candidates include a Ford worker at the Southampton Transit plant, also facing closure, three National Union of Teachers branch officers, and the president and vice-president of the Indian Workers' Association. The well-known socialist campaigner and former member of the Scottish parliament, Tommy Sheridan, is number two on the list in Scotland, alongside another Solidarity member, Leah Ganley, at number three.
There has also been some clarification of the coalition's policy that victorious candidates will not sit in the Strasbourg European parliament. No2EU-Yes to Democracy will formally 'accept election' to the parliament if any of its regional lists are successful.
If none of the candidates on the list did so, it would precipitate a regional by-election. However, the exact tactics on how to expose the gravy train that is the European parliament - MEPs can expect to be millionaires at the end of a five year term - will be discussed at a post-election convention of the forces involved in the campaign.
What is clear is that no candidate on the No2EU list would benefit financially from their election and they would use the nominal position of MEP to fight against the EU's neo-liberal agenda, in Britain and Europe.
It is also clear that the No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign is already rattling New Labour supporters at the tops of the trade unions. What can they say when the question is put by their members, who would you choose between the No2EU candidates and New Labour's pro-big business politicians?
The likely argument against the coalition is that it will 'let in' the far-right British National Party (BNP), which hopes to gain seats in June. But on the contrary, No2EU-Yes to Democracy offers the only realistic alternative of persuading workers rightly disgusted with the mainstream capitalist parties not to cast a protest vote for the BNP.
No2EU is a coalition for the European elections, and is only a tentative first step to independent working-class political representation. But, despite any weaknesses it may have, it will at bottom provide a pro-worker alternative to New Labour in June's poll. The task now is to make the biggest possible impact for this campaign in the next six weeks.
Scotland: Tommy Sheridan to stand
THE No2EU-Yes to Democracy coalition includes Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement. Solidarity's co-convenor, Tommy Sheridan, issued the following statement on the news that he had been selected as a candidate for the Scottish list:
"I believe the No2EU-Yes to Democracy list agreed for Scotland is a first class combination of socialists, trade union activists and prominent campaign leaders. As Solidarity convenor I am proud to be on the list alongside fellow Solidarity member Leah Ganley, John Foster and the others. The No2EU project is a trade union-led initiative designed to unite left forces in the labour movement and beyond behind a progressive socialist and working-class programme for the European elections. We are proud as a party to be playing such a prominent role in this trade union-led platform.
"Those who believe in a workers' Europe based on human solidarity and radical wealth redistribution as opposed to the current bosses' Europe of obscene inequality and denial of basic democracy should join with the No2EU campaign and help deliver the biggest vote possible for radical and progressive change in favour of ordinary working people and their families across the European union. The courageous decision of the RMT to break with the New Labour Tories and present workers with a real alternative in the forthcoming European election is historic and deserves active support from all forces on the left".
The European elections
THERE ARE 72 UK members of the European parliament (MEPs), elected from twelve electoral 'regions', including Scotland (six MEPs), Wales (four) and Northern Ireland (three). The number of MEPs from each region is related to its population size, from the South East with ten MEPs to the North East, with three. This affects the percentage vote needed by a party list to guarantee that one of its candidates is elected. Voters have one vote, for a party rather than for individual candidates.
Funds are urgently needed to finance the campaign. Cheques should be made payable to No2EU-Yes to Democracy and sent, with your name and address, to Brian Denny, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD.
In The Socialist 22 April 2009:
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news