Reflections On The TUSC Campaign Trail…

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With just over 3 weeks to go until the General and Local Elections take place I have found it useful to take 5 minutes between putting letters and statements together, preparing for hustings and leaflet drops as well as canvassing, to reflect on the changed mood from last year.

One of the first things that I have noticed this year is the diminished support for UKIP when speaking to people on doorsteps. It was to be expected that UKIP would be prominent in last year’s elections as the local elections ran concurrently with the European Elections but one thing that has been striking this year has been the lack of vocal support this year compared to last year for UKIP. I have had conversations with a number of people who have expressed support for UKIP, more as a protest vote than anything else, but there has been a marked drop in self-proclaimed UKIP supporters or voters.

This seems at odds with the giant billboards, masses of leaflets going out as well as the seemingly full-time commenting on local news websites of some UKIP supporters. However, this will all have been paid for by millions which have been provided by rich donors that were once loyal to the Conservatives.

Something else I have noticed is a lack of canvassing and grass roots campaigning by the other parties. I have spoken to plenty of people who almost seem surprised that a rosette wielding Socialist is knocking at their door of an evening until I point out that there’s only 3 weeks to go until polling day. Again, there are plenty of billboards from all of the Capitalist parties being erected across the city in an almost clandestine turf war but this seems to be the extent of it. The battle for hearts, minds and political ideas seems to have been reduced to an almost clinical advertising campaign.

One other very encouraging difference I have noticed in this election compared to last year is that these elections are much more political than in previous years. It is clear now more than ever before, at least in the course of my political experience, that people are searching much more deeply for a political outlet which best represents their increasingly irked voice. There is a clear rejection of the tired swing from Labour to Conservative and back again as more and more people are looking to parties that can offer a way out of the protracted crisis caused by the current rut Capitalism finds itself in.

Some have been pulled in by the simplistic and mistaken view that immigration is the cause of every societal woe, whether it’s overcrowded schools, the stagnant wages or the alleged influx of health tourists “burdening our NHS” offered by a rightwards lurching UKIP. Others are turning to the seemingly refreshing views of the Greens, who have lurched leftwards in their rhetoric with promises to end austerity and promise of a minimum wage of ₤10 an hour by 2020. Yet when the Greens have been in a position to end austerity, such as in Brighton and Hove or Bristol, they have capitulated and joined an increasing rainbow coalition of austerity wielding parties. Not to mention that ₤10 an hour is needed now, not some time in the distant future.

There is a dwindling rump of support for the Conservatives and Labour, mainly made up of stalwarts and party faithfuls that have not yet come to terms with the fast changing political landscape. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. Labour seem to be desperately trying to shed its working-class base as it has spent more and more of its time marketing itself to big business with continued austerity whilst opportunistically also offering rhetoric about communities and helping the most vulnerable. This flies in the face of the reality of Labour councils which have dutifully implemented austerity passed down to them by the Con-Dems.

Likewise, the Conservatives have not managed to attract voters beyond its core support as most people are under no illusions about us all being in this together after 5 years of wages, terms, conditions and public services being hammered.

It’s hugely encouraging to be out canvassing on the streets and being greeted, on the whole, with a barrage of questions as it is clear that the working-class are really starting to explore the potential avenues for them to venture down on the political plain. Fed up with more of the same or petty compromises working-class people are looking for a way out of the sustained poverty and misery being unnecessarily inflicted upon them.

As a Socialist Party member and TUSC candidate in the local elections this May I am glad to be there offering a genuine alternative to austerity through the striving for a socialist transformation of society. The ground is fertile for our ideas, having spent just an hour canvassing we were able to pick up 6 contacts as well as a much larger number of people who said they would seriously consider casting a vote for us this May.

Even more inspiring was the presence of a Norwegian student in attendance at our latest branch meeting, directly as a result of our sustained campaigning efforts. Keen to learn more about what the Socialist Party, and indeed the Committee for a Workers’ International, has to offer, I am confident that this can be replicated many times. We are turning more and more heads in this election and more importantly gaining new members and organisers. This will really accelerate the process of building a strong workers’ movement hungry from poverty, hungry for change… hungry for socialism.

I would like to dedicate this post to Declan Clune, a faithful reader of my blog since its inception.

If you like what you read, feel free to like, comment, follow this blog and let’s not forget join the Socialist Party.

Cuts, Contradictions and Outright Lies

Plymouth City Council yesterday passed its annual budget and the entire spectacle was almost comical in its presentation but the trouble is that underneath all the blustering and posturing there was a very serious and all too familiar outcome.

Labour were happy to point out how damaging the cuts from central government have been when wagging their fingers at the Conservative opposition as they bragged about how much the Labour Council has achieved despite the cuts. Yet, Labour have obediently implemented another cuts budget and offered no real opposition in Plymouth to the attacks levied by central government.

Even a cursory glance at some of the figures showed some of the “achievements” Labour were less keen to boast about, such as the 16,911 people dragged through the courts for non-payment of Council Tax since slashing Council Tax Support by 20%. Moreover, Labour talked about the increasing pressure on adult social care and mental health services, undoubtedly a result of increasing poverty, which they responded to by cutting the funding for both adult and child social care.

This will inevitably put extra strain on the NHS which will have to pick up the slack. Thus, an extra £2.6 billion promised by Labour will be nothing more than tokenism when stacked against the cuts in pay, stretching of services and the privatisation which has already been introduced into the NHS, opening up a funding black hole. But I digress.

The Con-Dem inspired austerity budget, which cuts deeper and looks increasingly at outsourcing public services to the private sector, was pushed through by Labour’s majority of 1. However, the contradictions didn’t end there. UKIP broke their seeming vow of silence speaking for the first time at a full council meeting since being elected last May. Maddi Bridgman argued that people in her ward have not seen wage rises and that people are struggling but when given the opportunity to vote for a living wage she, and her two UKIP colleagues both voted against the motion. This demonstrates again that whilst UKIP posture about being for the people, when given the opportunity they vote against the interests of ordinary working-class people.

Worst of all, Labour resorted to outright lies as a means to sling mud at the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), determined to taint a party which is exposing Labour for its lack of opposition to austerity. Councillor Bill Stevens alleged that “TUSC Councillor Alison Casey voted against the living wage” despite Alison Casey having no affiliation to TUSC and never being endorsed by the TUSC national steering committee as a representative of TUSC. The fact that Labour have to resort to such disgraceful and wholly dishonest tactics as a means to justifying its shambolic commitment to austerity is a disgrace and it will only hasten the “Pasokification” of the Labour Party.

TUSC remains committed to opposing all cuts and will be raising another full slate of candidates in Plymouth this May to firmly keep opposition of austerity on the agenda. If Labour will not oppose austerity then step aside because Plymothians cannot be subjected to further eye-watering cuts. This is the case whether it be at their “brilliant and co-operative” hands or the hands of the Con-Dems, UKIP or even the Greens, as exhibited in both Bristol and Brighton and Hove. Cuts are still cuts and they sting no matter who wields the axe; the solution is to vote for, and get involved with TUSC.

http://www.tusc.org.uk/support.php