Saturday, 18 April 2015

Meet Martin and hear your TUSC candidate speak (except where TUSC are excluded?!)

Forest Hill this afternoon
The TUSC Campaign in Lewisham West and Penge had a great reception this afternoon as we set up campaign stalls across the constituency (see photos).

Many voters were asking about a chance to hear me speak at a campaign meeting or hustings. There's lots of opportunities - and here they are:

  • Sunday 19 April - Bellingham Green street meeting at the end of canvassing at 2.30 pm
  • Friday 24 April - Forest Hill and Sydenham Society hustings, 7pm, Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Path, SE26 4EA (but, as things stand, this EXCLUDES TUSC - see below*)
    Penge High Street today
  • Tuesday 28 April - Bromley Trades Council meeting, 7pm, HG Wells centre, St.Marks Road, Bromley South (Martin will be one of the trade union speakers). 
  • Wednesday 29 April - Penge Forum hustings, 7.30 pm, St.John's Church, Penge High Street SE20 7EQ 
  • Thursday 30 April - TUSC Public Meeting at the Crooked Billet pub, 99 High Street, Penge, SE20 7DT AND 
  • also on Thursday 30 April (Martin will try and be in two places at once!) "38 degrees" hustings, 7.30pm at St William of York Parish Room, Brockley Park, SE23 1PS   
    In Sydenham this morning
  • Tuesday 5 May, 7,30 pm, TUSC pre-Election Rally, upstairs at The Hob, 7 Devonshire Road, SE23 3HE opposite Forest Hill station.
* Exclusion from the Forest Hill and Sydenham Society event?

As things stand, the organisers of this event are unique in the constituency in seeking to argue that they have 'impartial' reasons for excluding TUSC from the hustings. This is the reply that TUSC has sent to seek to persuade them to reconsider:

"I am indeed surprised and disappointed by your decision and, moreover, I think other local residents, including those intending to attend the hustings, will be as well. I would remind you that the Electoral Commission advises that you must “be able to give impartial reasons why you have not invited particular candidates or parties” and that you should “inform the audience at the meeting of candidates or parties standing who haven’t been invited”.

I am afraid that in presenting those reasons to the meeting, your continuing insistence to exclude me from your hustings will rightly be seen as being anti-democratic, unjustified and far from ‘impartial’. Yours will be the only hustings that is seeking to exclude the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in Lewisham West and Penge. The Electoral Commission is clear that “if you are holding a public hustings, and you want to ensure that it is a non-selective hustings, the simplest way is to invite all the relevant candidates in the area”. By choosing not to do so, you leave yourselves open to a complaint that you are organising a selective hustings, intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, specifically prejudicing my electoral prospects and the prospects of TUSC locally.

I should emphasise that TUSC is standing 135 candidates at the General Election, including a third of the seats in London, clearly exceeding the national threshold for ‘fair coverage’. To exclude a party making such a widespread stand needs considerable justification. The Electoral Commission guidance that you referred to suggests that ‘impartial reasons’ for holding a selective hustings might include:

1) Local prominence of some parties or candidates over others
My campaigning record as a local NUT Secretary, NUT National Executive member and local resident gives me considerable local prominence, including in the local press. TUSC’s local base of support and campaigning activity is also not insignificant. Yet you are directly contradicting the guidance by arguing that “I'm not convinced that living and campaigning in the constituency for a number of years is a good enough reason to be included on the panel”.

2) The number of elected representatives at the local or national level
As a new party, then it is not surprising that, as yet, TUSC has few elected representatives nationally or locally. It would be unjustifiable to act in a prejudicial way that would block the prospects of a new political formation being able to develop such representation over time. However, the Socialist Party, the main constituent of TUSC locally, has recently had elected councillors sitting on Lewisham Council. UKIP has never had such an elected councillor.

3) Recent election results in the area
Your justification that you have based your decision on the results of the last parliamentary election is clearly prejudicial against a new party which did not exist at that time. Your arguments about the local elections are also unjustified. In Sydenham [in 2014], UKIP did receive 572 votes as opposed to TUSC’s 235 votes (4.5%). However, in Bellingham, TUSC received 144 votes (4.3%) whereas UKIP did not stand at all. In the previous 2011 Bellingham by-election, Ian Page, of the Socialist Party, one of the constituent parts forming the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition received 264 votes (12.3%), compared to 100 votes for the Green Party. A clear impartial distinction between TUSC, UKIP and the Greens is simply not evident from these figures.

4) Resources and other practicalities constraining numbers of invitees
You have argued that the two options considered were either to invite all candidates or to invite five. However, you have not justified at all why the decision cannot be changed to invite six candidates. Apart from an additional chair, there are no resource implications arising from inviting TUSC to speak. While I understand your concern about the practicalities of time for debate, the addition of a sixth candidate would only require a small adjustment to timings. Your justification that “we selected the second option as having most relevance to the vast majority of voters in the local area” is clearly a subjective opinion which is not objectively justified and confirms that your reasoning could not be seen as being impartial.

Once again, I would ask you to reconsider your decision.

Martin Powell-Davies, TUSC candidate for Lewisham West and Penge"

Friday, 17 April 2015

Seen us on the TV? - now meet the TUSC team this weekend

TUSC's election broadcast tonight has at last broken through the media silence about our challenge and got our anti-austerity message out to thousands of new supporters - so much so that the TUSC website crashed because of the number of people trying to visit it after the broadcasts!

If you haven't seen the broadcast, view it here:


If you want to meet TUSC in Lewisham West and Penge, then you can meet us this weekend on:

Saturday 18th 
11am outside Sydenham Post Office, 
1pm outside Iceland/Wilkinsons in Penge High St, 
3pm outside Forest Hill Sainsburys

Sunday 19th 
2.30 pm on Bellingham Green.

If you want to get in touch and/or order a campaign poster for your window, get in touch via mpdnut@gmail.com



Thursday, 16 April 2015

TUSC's program to end the Housing Crisis

Housing was a key question at the Palace & Penge WI hustings
From conversations on the doorsteps canvassing, and at the local hustings that I have attended, housing is clearly a key issue for many voters in Lewisham West and Penge.

It is an issue that affects my students and my family and friends too. My son's friend and mother were recently offered a place to be rehoused - but in Birmingham. The difficulties facing homeless families was highlighted in a moving BBC documentary "No place to call home" featuring a Lewisham family.

Below, London housing worker Paul Kershaw, and a supporter of TUSC, sets out the level of the crisis - and TUSC and the Socialist Party's program to solve it (edited from an original article in this week's 'The Socialist' paper):

All the indicators of homelessness are on the rise. The number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen by nearly 10,000 in the last 12 months. One in 25 children in London are now homeless. 


A series of grassroots campaigns against social cleansing and in defence of decent rented housing have caught people's imagination - for example the campaign of the residents of the New Era estate in Hackney, east London. They give a glimpse of the growing anger at the housing crisis and the potential for housing campaigns based on action by working class people.

The mainstream parties have to respond to this anger and talk about housing but they have no solutions - their commitment to cuts and big business policies make that impossible.

The housing workers branch of Unite the Union has produced a short housing manifesto summarising Unite policy. It starts with opposition to the cuts and points to a real solution, including building council homes, capping rents and nationalising the banks.

The branch is encouraging its members to challenge election candidates to support it. TUSC has endorsed the manifesto. Unfortunately these demands are a long way from Labour's policy. 


Far too few new homes are being built. One of the first actions of the Con-Dem coalition was a 60% cut in the social housing grant. None of the major parties calls for reversing this cut.

It is estimated that at least 240,000 new homes per year are needed just to keep pace with the growth of new households, let alone dealing with the backlog. Labour has set the aim of building just 200,000 homes per year by the fifth year of a new government.

So even if this was achieved, the housing shortage would still be getting worse after five years. Members of the Lyons commission - set up to by Labour to advise on its housing policy - have been reported as doubting whether even this is possible in the context of austerity.

Scandalously, rather than supporting more genuinely affordable and secure housing, Labour councils have been behind 'regeneration' schemes which result in reductions of social housing.

Time and time again this 'regeneration' is carried out without proper consultation and in a way designed not to benefit local working class people but to drive them out of areas they have inhabited for generations. Most of the anti 'social cleansing' campaigns have had to fight Labour councils - a grim warning of what to expect from a Labour government.

If there was any doubt, a host of Labour luminaries contributed to the recent IPPR think tank's report 'City Villages' which advocates working with property developers to redevelop inner city estates. The report ignores the question of what homes Londoners can actually afford. The recent 'Strategic Housing Market Assessment' demonstrated that 52% of households in housing need cannot afford market rate homes - Labour has nothing to offer them.


Unite - and TUSC - policy of supporting a massive programme of council house building is essential. The 'big four' property developers are sitting on enough land to immediately build 1.4 million homes. Their profits have risen by 557% since 2010. The wealth, including land, of the super-rich 1% should be nationalised and used for common good such as social housing, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need.

As increasing numbers are forced to live in the private rented sector permanently, rather than a temporary staging post, affordability and security are more important.

Homelessness due to the end of 'short hold' tenancies (the most common private renting tenancy) is on the rise, now accounting for 30% of all homeless 'acceptances.' That is an increase of 26% since the end of 2013. As an immediate measure, we need rent control in the private sector.

People need homes - and that means people will fight for them. There have been occupations and demonstrations by angry tenants and strikes by angry workers. Those campaigners need a voice at the ballot box.

If a mass party campaigned on policies to change things in favour of the 99% rather than supporting big business, banks and property developers, it would get a massive echo. This May only TUSC can be a platform for what working class people are fighting for on estates and outside town halls across the country.


My program to end the housing crisis is:
  • Use councils' powers to compulsorily register private landlords and set-up council-run lettings agencies, as the means to tackle repair standards, high rents, over-occupancy, extortionate letting fees etc for private rented homes.
  • Build council homes now. By using councils' borrowing powers for capital spending to build council homes, while campaigning for the government to divert its subsidy for private developers to finance a mass programme of public housing and renovation to meet demand
  • Rent control now! Democratic rent councils to decide fair levels in each area
  • Hands off our homes! Bring all ex-council housing association stock and housing services back in-house
  • Housing benefits that reflect the real cost of renting
  • Councils should use their compulsory purchase powers on long term empty properties and use them as council housing
  • A new mass workers' party to fight for affordable housing for all. Support TUSC's candidates in May's general and local elections to fight for these policies
  • Nationalise the banks and biggest corporations. For a democratic socialist society that puts the needs of the majority, including decent, affordable housing, before the profits of the tiny minority.

TUSC Party Political Broadcast on air this Friday - don't miss it!

Watch out for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition broadcast on Friday April 17th..... BBC2: 5.55pm... ITV: 6.25pm... BBC1: 6.55pm... Channel4: 7.55pm

Here's a sneak preview of the making of the broadcast:


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

TUSC launches its manifesto - "the only 100% anti-austerity party"

Today TUSC launched its manifesto in Canary Wharf - "in the belly of the beast" as national TUSC chair Dave Nellist described it.


Former Labour MP and TUSC National Chair Dave Nellist launches the TUSC manifesto this morning

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is fielding an historic working class challenge on 7 May. Across England, Wales and Scotland a coalition of trade unionists, working class campaigners, and socialists will stand in over 135 seats. That's one in five parliamentary constituencies. TUSC is also standing in around 650 council seats too.

A list of candidates, with contact details is available on the TUSC elections website: www.tusc2015.com

For once, TUSC received some national coverage of today's launch with the BBC's initial report headlined: TUSC manifesto launch: 'Only 100% anti-austerity party' - well, that's pretty accurate! ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32254035
)


Here's some information on the manifesto issued in TUSC's 'press pack':

TUSC is fielding the fastest growing general election challenge, standing in over 130 parliamentary seats and over 600 council seats on May 7. It is the newest political party to have an election broadcast this year; and TUSC’s rapid growth is down to its unique anti-austerity policies.

Anti-cuts

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has the distinction of having never supported cuts or privatisation, and of all the other significant general election campaigns is the only one not to commit to support austerity in the next parliament. TUSC councillors, spread around the country in Southampton, Walsall, Leicester, Warrington and Hull, have moved no-cuts budgets and refused to back attacks on jobs and services at a local level, and this is a policy TUSC is committed to continuing at a parliamentary level. Internationally, it is an anti-austerity appeal that has seen Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain reach such prominence.

Standing up for workers

TUSC has the backing of one of Britain’s most militant unions, the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) and was co-founded by the late Bob Crow, that union’s former general secretary. The RMT, with 80,000 members, has subsequently endorsed TUSC at three consecutive conferences. In total, 15 national trade union figures are standing as part of TUSC: from Unison, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Usdaw (retail and distribution union), PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union), NAPO (National Association of Probation Officers) and Joe Simpson, the assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA). This is the largest number of leading trade unionists to stand for any party – and three quarters of our general election candidates are trade union activists; and the rest are active housing campaigners, anti-fracking activists, student campaigners, anti-racist activists. 

TUSC is endorsing the NUT education manifesto, the Unite housing workers’ manifesto, the Blacklist Support Group and the Trade Union Freedom bill, as well as actively supporting strikes and workers’ struggles across Britain.

Mass support for TUSC policies

Whenever key TUSC policies are polled, there is huge support.

  • 85% would support the implementation of the living wage (YouGov, 25/5/14). The TUC last year called for a £10 an hour minimum wage. TUSC campaigns to reach and surpass that, with an immediate raise to £10 an hour.
  • 84% think that the National Health Service should be run in the public sector, and the renationalisation of energy companies, the Royal Mail and the railway companies reaches 68%, 67% and 66% respectively (YouGov 4/11/13). TUSC’s election platform includes opposition to PFI and private companies in the NHS, and the renationalisation of these key industries.
  • 80% said social housing should be available for people who can’t afford the cost of private renting as well as providing a safety net (Ipsos Mori, 12/11/2014) and 56% would support rent controls for private housing (YouGov, 4/5/14). TUSC stands for a mass council house building programme to provide jobs and homes, and rent control.
  • Ending all cuts was one of the top issues in a survey conducted for Manchester Evening News, with over 5,000 participants (30/03/15). TUSC has the distinction of voting consistently against cuts in local government, and it is a central policy in the TUSC manifesto.

TUSC's MANIFESTO:

The Con-Dem government has inflicted five years of savage austerity on working class people. Unfortunately there is no prospect of this changing beyond the general election, as the leadership of the Labour Party has made it clear that a Labour government would not mean an end to austerity.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) argues that working class people should not pay for a crisis that we did not cause. That was why TUSC was set up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow, to show that there is a clear left-wing alternative to policies of public sector cuts, privatisation, militarism and environmental degradation.

TUSC has accepted from its start that there will be some Labour candidates who share our socialist aspirations and will be prepared to support measures that challenge the austerity consensus of the establishment politicians. But it is also committed to standing candidates or supporting others if that is the only way a working class anti-austerity socialist alternative can be articulated at election time.

Our coalition, of trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists, is united on the need for mass resistance to the ruling class offensive, and for an alternative programme of left-wing policies to help inspire and direct such resistance:


PUBLIC OWNERSHIP, NOT PRIVATE PROFIT
  • Stop all privatisation, including the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). Bring privatised public services, industries and utilities back into public ownership under democratic control, with compensation only on the basis of proven need.
  • No to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and all secret austerity treaties.
NO CUTS – FOR QUALITY PUBLIC SERVICES
  • Re-nationalise all rail, bus and ferry services to build an integrated, low-pollution public transport system. Take Royal Mail back into public ownership to guarantee our postal services. Bring prisons, probation, and all other parts of the justice system back into the public sector.
  • For a high-quality, free National Health Service under democratic public ownership and control.
  • Stop council estate sell-offs and build high-standard, eco-friendly, affordable council housing.
  • No to academies and ‘free schools’. Good, free education for all, under democratic local authority control; student grants not fees.
JOBS, NOT HANDOUTS TO THE BANKERS AND BILLIONAIRES
  • Bring banks and finance institutions into genuine public ownership under democratic control, instead of giving huge handouts to the very capitalists who caused the crisis.
  • Tax the rich. For progressive tax on rich corporations and individuals and an end to tax avoidance.
  • For massive investment in environmental projects.
EMPLOYMENT AND TRADE UNION RIGHTS
  • Repeal the anti-trade union laws, reverse attacks on facility time and the right to collect subs by check-off for trade unions, particularly in the public-sector.
  • Support the TUC’s demand to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and for it then to rise in line with inflation or wages, whichever is higher.
  • Scrap zero hour contracts. Guaranteed hours and full employment rights for all. Cut the working week to 35 hours with no loss of pay.
  • Invest to create and protect jobs, including for young people.
  • Solidarity with workers taking action to defend jobs, conditions, pensions, public services and trade unions. Reinstate full trade union rights to prison officers.
PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT – STOP GLOBAL WARMING
  • Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – otherwise climate change, caused by capitalism, will destroy us.
  • Invest in publicly-owned and controlled renewable energy. Oppose fracking.
  • Move to sustainable, low-pollution industry and farming – stop the pollution that is destroying our environment. No to profit-driven GM technology.
  • Produce for need, not profit, and design goods for reuse and recycling.
DECENT PENSIONS AND BENEFITS
  • Abolish the bedroom tax.
  • Reverse cuts to benefits; for living benefits; end child poverty. Scrap benefit sanctions.
  • Restore the pre-Thatcher real value of pensions. Reverse the increases imposed on the state retirement age, creating jobs for younger people.
STOP THE ATTACKS ON DISABLED PEOPLE
  • Promote inclusive policies to enable disabled people to participate in, and have equal access to, education, employment, housing, transport and welfare provision.
  • Support measures to ensure disabled people receive a level of income according to needs. Equal pay for equal work.
DEMOCRACY, DIVERSITY AND JUSTICE
  • Welcome diversity and oppose racism, fascism and discrimination. Defend the right to asylum, repeal the 2014 Immigration Act and all racist immigration controls.
  • Ensure women have genuinely equal rights and pay.
  • Full equality for LGBT people.
  • Defend our liberties and make police and security democratically accountable.
  • For the right to vote at 16.
SOLIDARITY NOT WAR
  • No to imperialist wars and occupations!
  • Justice for the Palestinians, lift the siege of Gaza, recognise the state of Palestine.
  • No more spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons, huge aircraft carriers or irrelevant eurofighters - convert arms spending into socially useful products and services.
  • An independent foreign policy, based on international solidarity - no more being a US poodle, no moves towards a capitalist, militarist United States of Europe. No to austerity and anti-working class policies, whether from the EU or Britain.
SOCIALISM
  • For a democratic socialist society run in the interests of people not millionaires. For bringing into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment.

Vote Bike means voting against spending cuts

CTC, the national cycling charity, has been encouraging members to contact their prospective MPs as part of their 'Vote Bike' campaign. As a CTC member myself, and regular cyclist with Penge CC, I have been very happy to respond in support of their five questions:

1. Ambition. Will you support measures to increase levels of cycling to 10% of trips by 2025 and 25% by 2050?
2. Funding. Will you support an average government spend of at least £10 per person per year on cycling?
3. Design standards. Will you support action to create consistently high design standards for cycling in all highway and traffic schemes, new developments and planned road maintenance work?
4. Safety. Will you support measures to improve cycle safety by strengthening road traffic law and its enforcement and revising the Highway Code?
5. Positive promotion. Will you support the positive promotion of cycling, including cycle skills training, for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities?

However, promoting cycling will take more than fine words, it needs resources - when the main parties all promise further spending cuts. That's why I have responded further to say:

"I am keenly aware of the need to properly invest in measures to improve cycling safety and to encourage people of all ages to consider greater use of cycling and other means of sustainable transport over inefficient and environmentally-damaging individual car use.

As all of us who cycle in London know, there are real dangers to cyclists from the lack of investment in genuine traffic-free cycle lanes, particularly at busy junctions and, as cuts to council services continue, from deteriorating road surfaces and potholes too. 

Training for cyclists and drivers alike, as well as expansion of secure storage facilities, e.g at rail stations and on trains themselves, would all also encourage cycle use. All of us who have cycled in, say, Belgium or the Netherlands, know how far behind we are in providing these kind of facilities.

These developments need to be part of a plan for an integrated public transport system across the capital with much-reduced fares and increased capacity to encourage drivers to switch from cars to other forms of transport.

Of course, all this requires resources. However, CTC's hope that Local Authorities, health bodies and schools might help in encouraging increased cycle use comes up against the fact that all of these organisations face budget cuts, cuts that all of the main parties are committed to continuing with if they are elected to Government after May 7. It needs more than fine words to support cycling, it needs a genuine commitment to stop cuts and to start investing in our future.

TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, is proud to make that commitment. We know that there is plenty of wealth available to meet needs, including the development of greater cycle use. Parties wedded to the 1% who hold that wealth are not going to deliver for the 99%. TUSC will".