The Socialist 4 May 2016 |
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Political censorship used against socialist mayoral candidates
The establishment wants to silence socialist ideas, photo by Carolyn Tiry (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Bristol and Liverpool councils have carried out what can only be described as political censorship of socialists contesting mayoral elections on 5 May.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee has agreed to formally complain to the cities' returning officers.
Candidates in mayoral contests are entitled to have an election address printed in a booklet distributed to every elector. There are rules about the content of the address. It must not be used for commercial gain, or 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 "Liverpool Labour is slashing our public services"! But those were two of the deletions demanded by returning officers in Bristol and Liverpool.
The election address submitted by TUSC's mayoral candidate in Bristol, Tom Baldwin, included the following passages:
"Over £100 million has been cut from Bristol City Council by the mayor and his cross-party cabinet that includes Labour and the Greens."
"Some say there's no choice but to implement council cuts. But Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said austerity is a political choice.
"The Tories were forced into a u-turn on disability benefits. By getting organised we can push them back on council cuts too, but we also need representatives who will take them on."
"If elected I will... Propose a budget based on Bristol's needs, not the Tory government's demands for cuts."
Incredibly, the council's election staff 'advised' that no references could be made to the Tories. And that the phrase "Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said austerity is a political choice" should also be removed.
The first passage had to be reworded. It now reads: "Over £100 million has been cut from Bristol City Council" - with no reference allowed to the fact these cuts were implemented by a cross-party cabinet including Labour and the Greens.
If this isn't straightforward political censorship, covering up which parties have voted for cuts, then what is it?
Liverpool's returning officer at least allowed a reference to Jeremy Corbyn to remain in the election address submitted by TUSC candidate Roger Bannister. Presumably, and very reasonably, he interpreted the rule about no references to "any other candidate" as meaning individuals who were actually standing for mayor of Liverpool - not a London MP who is not, in fact, standing anywhere at all this year!
But liberalism has its limits. Roger's original draft included the following passages:
"Liverpool Labour is slashing our public services while selling off our public land."
"I intend to build on Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity campaign which propelled him into the Labour leadership. Jeremy's election has changed the political landscape and given hope to millions, but if local Labour continues to implement cuts, the impact of Jeremy's election will be vastly diminished."
"This year Liverpool's Labour council intends to cut nearly £5 million from children's centres, over £1 million from disabled children and young people, £2 million from disabled adults' day centres, a total of £42 million from adult social care, and £2.5 million from maintaining our parks and open spaces."
TUSC will fight
"Roger Bannister says: 'If Labour refuse to implement any further cuts and campaigns for resources to reverse the vicious cuts made against the old, the disabled, the library services, and the rest, I will immediately withdraw my candidacy... But if Labour won't lead that fight, then TUSC and I will.'"
So what was left after the censor's pen was applied? All references to Liverpool Labour, local Labour and Liverpool's Labour council were removed. And if you can't mention Labour, the offer to withdraw if it is prepared to fight becomes meaningless.
The Liverpool Labour Party holds the mayor's position, and 81 of the 90 council seats going into the elections on 5 May. It can instruct its returning officer, the council's chief executive, to say that black is white.
But does Liverpool Labour really think it can hide the fact that it is responsible for implementing the cuts that are savaging the city's public services?
TUSC won't let these attacks on the democratic right to tell the truth go uncontested.