The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing one candidate in the three seats up for election for the Hucknall ward in the Nottinghamshire County Council election on May 2nd. This is part of a national challenge by TUSC where we are standing in around 125 seats. In Nottinghamshire, we are also standing in Carlton East and in Mansfield North. TUSC is an electoral alliance that puts forward candidates in the elections who are committed to voting against the cuts and proposing a budget based on what is needed to prevent cuts to jobs and services.
Jim Grundy, who is a councillor on Ashfield District Council for Hucknall West, has written a blog entry questioning why TUSC has decided to stand. This reply serves to answer those questions. http://think-left.org/2013/04/04/will-the-left-throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater/
Currently, the working class is facing a huge attack from the Con-Dem government and there is an important debate needed on how our movement will succeed in defeating them. For TUSC supporters, this means providing an alternative. It means candidates in elections that are prepared to take a stand against the cuts, not just in words but in deeds. We believe that the Labour Party no longer represents us and we believe that it is not possible to ‘reclaim’ Labour for working class people. We believe that we need a new workers’ party that is prepared to provide political representation for the majority with a clear programme of opposing all cuts. As part of building this party, we are standing in elections and are asking people who support our aims to join with us. (www.tusc.org.uk)
TUSC does not have a position of “opposing Labour whatever it does”. Where Labour councillors (and at the moment it is only a handful) are prepared to vote against the cuts in the council chamber, we are prepared to fully support them. In Southampton, Hull and Warrington where individual councillors have voted against the cuts proposed by the Labour controlled authorities, TUSC has supported them and has in fact played an important role in lobbies to defend them when the Labour Party has voted to suspend them. There is more about this on http://councillorsagainstcuts.org/.
We make no apology for standing against Labour councillors who vote for cuts. For example, Nottingham City Council, on which Labour have a large majority, has just voted for £17m worth of cuts, an increase in Council Tax and a cut in Council Tax Benefit. TUSC will be putting forward candidates in the next city council elections opposing this.
We are standing against Labour in the County Council elections because we are not convinced that if Labour wins a majority that they will propose a no-cuts budget which means a budget that prevents further job losses and further attacks to services. The current leader of the Labour group, Alan Rhodes, has put forward that “difficult decisions” will need to be made; in other words, Labour will make cuts.
TUSC supporters in Mansfield were contacted by the Mansfield Labour Party TUSC asked them if they were prepared to vote against cuts, particularly if they were prepared to vote in the council chamber against the budget being voted for by the rest of the Labour group. They replied that they “couldn’t promise that”. We had a similar discussion with one of the Hucknall Labour candidates on our campaigning stall. This seems to be the position of Labour across the county.
TUSC does have a strategy of what to “do in the here and now”. We propose that councils use their reserves (we understand that Nottinghamshire County Council has around £200m in reserves) and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing cuts from the government to council funding on to people in the county via job and service cuts. We propose that councils use the time that this will buy them to build a mass campaign in the local area, to set a budget based on what is needed and demands that the government makes up the shortfall.
This has been done in the “here and now”. It was the route taken by the Liverpool City Council in the 1980s under Labour control. There have been other examples of councils refusing to pass on attacks from the government to the working class such as Clay Cross in the 1970s and Poplar in the 1920s. Therefore, TUSC is not putting forward “empty rhetoric” but is putting forward a strategy for how we can defeat the cuts and build a movement that can defend our living standards.
We will not reply to the outrageous slurs of us being “self-indulgent, self-serving individuals who positively revel in ordinary people’s misery” as personal insults reflect Councillor Grundy’s lack of an alternative
Unfortunately, in Hucknall many people feel let down by the Labour Party. In Councillor Grundy’s blog, he does not explain why in 2009 two Tory councillors and one UKIP councillor won. We would argue that many people felt disillusioned by both Labour in government and in control of the county council and that people cast a protest vote. What alternative is Labour offering today?