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TUSC Conference Report, Saturday 28th January

Session One: How can local councillors fight the cuts?

Cllr Dave Nellist (SP NEC and TUSC Chair), Charlie Kimble (SWP NEC) and Nick Wrack (TUSC SC and ISN) led the opening session. They called for support for the draft local elections policy platform which spells out how any TUSC councilors would refuse to support any cuts at all stages of discussion. The need for anti cuts candidates was stressed. The London TUSC list for the PR Top-up section was announced – it included leading trade unionists from the RMT, Unison, FBU, NUT, POA and UCU, with potential commitments from the CWU and PCS. This represented a wide range of trade union support. It was explained that there would be no TUSC Mayoral challenge because TUSC worked by consensus and neither the FBU nor the SWP were keen on putting a candidate forward.

The discussion included the following comments:

  • There should be a TUSC mayoral candidate to get TUSC publicity into every London household
  • The TUSC List for the London Elections was exciting and broad
  • There was an urgent need for a united left party
  • 2011 was a year of revolution and protest – this will influence our election campaign
  • Union branches are beginning to oppose donations to the Labour party
  • The Green Party is not opposing cuts as can be seen in Brighton where they lead the Council and are proposing £35 million cuts. A Green councilor in Gloucester crossed the picket line on N30 to attend a Council meeting
  • If TUSC candidates are elected they will have a significant role in persuading trade unionists to back an alternative to Labour – TUSC
  • The working class still supports a Labour type position but that is fading with Milliband and Balls' attacks on public sector workers
  • TUSC needs to be seen on picket lines and at protests
  • We need to reach out to youth
  • The various Left initiatives over the last 20 years have helped break down the divisions on the left and we can build on that.
  • A new Left party can come out of this process

Session Two: Organising an election campaign

Hannah Sell (SP Exec Ctte), Maxine Bowler (SWP and TUSC candidate in Sheffield) and Pete McLaren (TUSC ISN and TUSC candidate in Rugby) introduced the session. Maxine Bowler argued we were part of the anti cuts movement and we were in opposition to Labour and labourism. It was important we produced good quality leaflets making our opposition to cuts clear. We should use public meetings, and organize now to pick up the postal vote. Engaging with voters was important, as was knocking up known supporters on the day. She felt it better to concentrate on wards where we had organization and roots rather than stand too widely. Pete McLaren suggested it was not too late to get organized – last year Rugby TUSC was only set up on March 2nd, yet, within 2 months, it had selected 7 candidates, raised £2,000 and delivered over 20,000 leaflets. He urged everyone present to go out to their anti cuts groups and local trade unions to stress the need for anti cuts candidates, and suggest they adopt the TUSC Against Cuts electoral title. The Elections were about continuing to build the anti cuts movement alongside building TUSC, he argued. He stressed the importance of gaining a profile in the local media with a constant stream of Media Releases, the drip, drip effect eventually working as the media sought an alternative to the pro-cuts views of the established parties – in Rugby 24 Media Releases in the last 10 months had resulted in 43 media articles centered around TUSC. He concluded by stressing the need to leaflet every household and engaging with voters by canvassing, stalls and street meetings. Hannah Sell spoke of difficulties in breaking Labour's traditional grip on workers' votes, but argued support was growing for socialist ideas. The recent statements of Milliband and Ed Balls attacking the public sector moved people our way. TUSC should stand in as many seats as possible, she concluded, whilst prioritizing key areas – helping Dave Nellist keep his council seat in Coventry was stressed as an important example.

The following were amongst points made in the discussion:

  • We should target seats where the BNP are standing to provide a viable alternative
  • We must reach out to young people
  • We need to use modern technology more, as well as leaflets
  • We need a long term approach that includes regular work where we are standing
  • TUSC should make a call for candidates. Standing broadly creates a profile
  • The political situation gives the potential for more candidates – we need to brainstorm the possibilities
  • TUSC should consider whether the very name actually resonates
  • We need a national media profile with weekly Media Releases as Rugby TUSC have achieved
  • We should email out information about radio/TV shows/discussions that we could participate in
  • We need a national Press Officer
  • The cuts are becoming more obvious – we should work with others to oppose the cuts
  • We need to check the Electoral Commission web site for legal and other changes
  • We should use You Tube to promote TUSC – Ken Loach should be approached

The speakers replied to the debate. Maxine Blower felt we should avoid standing too broadly to avoid demoralising small votes. She also felt the use of social media to be very important. Pete McLaren explained that all the guidance for candidates and agents was on the Electoral Commission web site. He agreed that TUSC should stand broadly, including where the BNP were standing. He felt the TUSC label was a positive one, identifying ourselves as both trade unionists and socialists – the local media had approached him for TUSC comment on trade union disputes. Hannah Sell explained there were no rules for how widely TUSC should stand. She agreed we should go to anti cuts committees and trade union branches to discuss standing anti cuts candidates. She stressed the importance of talking to people, especially in workplaces, suggesting that we match up candidates with areas of work they are linked with e.g. a CWU candidate could lead a meeting at a Royal Mail Post Office, a POA member at a prison, an RMT member at a station – as well as TU branches

The Conference ended with a unanimous vote for the Policy Statement below, including the addendum from Rugby TUSC

Stand up to the Con-Dem government For councillors who refuse to implement the cuts!

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) Steering Committee has agreed a draft policy platform, outlined below, to contest the local council elections that will take place in May 2012, in 158 councils in England and all councils in Wales. There are also local elections in 2012 for all councils in Scotland, and TUSC supporters there are discussing a similar platform.

The local elections policy platform will be the basis on which any prospective council candidate who wishes to can stand under the TUSC name in May's elections.

This policy platform is a supplement to the core policy statement that TUSC candidates endorsed when they stood in the general election in May 2010, which still stands as the basic policy position of the TUSC coalition (see Policies on the TUSC website).

An application form for the legally necessary 'Certificate of Authorisation' to stand as a TUSC candidate is available on the website (see Candidates).

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition policy platform for the 2012 local elections

Oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions – we reject the claim that 'some cuts' are necessary to our services.

Reject increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts.

Vote against the privatisation of council jobs and services, or the transfer of council services to 'social enterprises' or 'arms-length' management organisations, which are first steps to privatisation.

Use all the legal powers available to councils, including powers to refer local NHS decisions, initiate referenda and organise public commissions and consultations, to oppose both the cuts and government polices which centrally impose the transfer of public services to private bodies.

When faced with government cuts to council funding, councils should refuse to implement the cuts. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing them on – while arguing that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defeat the cuts is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demands that the government makes up the shortfall.