Town councillors leave Labour and join TUSC

TUSC now has two representatives on Lydney Town Council. Roger Holmes and Steve Stockham were longstanding Labour members and lifelong socialists suspended from Labour.

Steve’s ‘crime’ was to act on a request from Lydney Labour Party to discuss the reasons behind Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension. Lydney Town Council will now have a real opposition to cuts and failed local government policies.

Why I’m leaving Labour and joining TUSC

Steve Stockham, Lydney Town Councillor

I’ve been a Labour supporter and voter for all of my adult life. My activist journey began when I was elected National Union of Students (NUS) rep at college, followed by time with NUJ, Nupe, and the post office worker unions, and Unison with my final job before retiring.

I joined the Labour Party in the mid-1990s. Like many socialists, I left after the Iraq War, and the obvious embracing of neoliberal free-market economics by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

I rejoined in 2017, enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a socialist Britain. I still thought that the industrial-political class would allow socialism if it gained enough popular support. The mass media smear campaign and hatchet job on Jeremy Corbyn in the run up to the 2019 elections showed just how wrong I had been.

I was suspended from Labour by Keir Starmer in December 2020 for allowing my branch to discuss national policy decisions. I’m still suspended 16 months later with no recourse to appeal.

The current Labour leadership with its support of neoliberalism, anti-democratic actions, and complete lack of support for the working class has left me embarrassed to be associated with it. TUSC on the other hand stands for everything a socialist wants – anti-austerity, renationalisation of utilities, support for NHS, a fair distribution of wealth etc.

The status quo acts against social change. Grassroot movements such as TUSC are our best hope, which is why I would be proud to transfer my political allegiance as a town councillor to TUSC.

TUSC welcomes socialist councillor Steve

TUSC national election agent, Clive Heemskerk, welcomed Steve’s move as indicative of a growing mood to resist Keir Starmer’s Labour.

“There are over a dozen TUSC candidates who were previously Labour councillors or Labour Party council candidates from Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader. They have decided to carry on the fight for anti-austerity, socialist policies by standing as TUSC.

“Standing as TUSC – or forming a TUSC group on a council – is more politically significant than describing yourself as ‘independent’. That actually doesn’t distinguish you from ex-Tories or former Ukipers who often hide their real policies under the ‘independent’ label.

“Nor does it give a signal that what is needed is a national alternative to Starmer’s Tory-lite party, or the role that the trade unions must play in giving an alternative real authority. While TUSC is only a step towards the new working-class party that we need, using the description, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, couldn’t make it clearer where you stand.”

Swindon poverty and failing services

30 attendees packed into the first-ever meeting for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Swindon, with more on Zoom. One speaker – Labour town councillor in Lydney, Steve Stockham – ripped up his Labour membership card.

Steve said that he and fellow councillor Roger Holmes will now be TUSC councillors. In June, there will be a TUSC meeting in Lydney which will discuss campaigning in the local elections next year.

Rob Pettefar, one of two TUSC candidates in Swindon, explained the town’s mounting social and economic problems – 14% child poverty, failing services and the loss of key local amenities.

TUSC national chair Dave Nellist said Labour councils are failing to address pressing issues, the ways they could actually help working-class people, and the need for the unions to build a new mass workers’ party.

Sheila Caffrey, National Education Union (NEU) executive and Bristol trades union council president, in a personal capacity, touched on how the pandemic had impacted on teachers and other key workers, the cost-of-living crisis, and the need for trade unions and a new political party to challenge the bosses’ system. Several audience members commented that we need more representatives like Sheila.

Sue Powell, Gloucestershire Socialist Party