“I will refuse to take any more salary than I currently earn, if elected, and I will publish details of my salary and expenses online for my constituents to see, examine and to hold me to account as their representative”. This is the pledge of Surrey County Unison branch secretary and Socialist Party member Paul Couchman who is standing as a general election candidate in the Spelthorne seat in Surrey.
North Surrey Socialist Party
Around 30 people turned out in Staines on 11 February for a public launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Spelthorne constituency and unanimously selected Paul as the TUSC candidate. Chris Leary, also a Unison activist, was elected to be the campaign’s press and publicity officer.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Paul condemned the planned cuts to public services in the area. The local hospital has lost its A&E and most wards, local fire stations face the axe and bus routes are being slashed. Just last week, the council announced plans to close a local infant school, Shortwood, in Staines.
Paul spoke of the need for trade unions and working class people to organise to defend their jobs and services – like the hundreds of parents, staff and local people who turned up at a public meeting to defend Shortwood school. Local politicians had their hands full trying to explain to the angry meeting why this well-loved school should close. Paul however was invited to join the campaign steering committee.
Paul explained the importance of working class people having a political voice as New Labour has embraced the capitalist system and joined the Tories in cutting and privatising public services.
Speakers from the audience included many Unison members, including social workers recently involved in a dispute over caseloads who are still struggling with too few staff and mountains of paperwork.
Messages of support were received from local reps in the FBU and RMT unions who were unable to attend.
Over £85 was raised and many people took election pledge sheets away. Our next step is to organise an election planning day in March for all local TUSC supporters.