In the upcoming Greater London Authority elections, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is the progressives’ way forward
On Thursday May 3, citizens up and down the country will take to polling stations in elections which will reformulate the political makeup of our local authorities. In London, they will also elect a Mayor to preside over the running of the capital from City Hall, as well as members of the London Assembly.
I feel that the first important thing to dismiss is the cynicism that surrounds these elections, regardless of how well-intentioned it is. The democratic deficit in this country is well-versed and certainly needs to be addressed, but I don’t think that will happen via a mass abstention at the ballot box on Thursday. In fact, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, it’s far more likely to happen precisely because of it. Voting for the parties that reject Westminster’s not-so-benevolently constructed political consensus is likely to have a far greater impact than simply not voting at all.
Focusing on my own social group, since the Conservative-led Coalition came to power in May 2010, the aspirations of young people have been dealt a huge blow. Record levels of youth unemployment, dwindling graduate prospects, the axing of the Educational Maintenance Allowance for college students and trebling of tuition fees are just the tip of the iceberg. Yet it is not just the Conservatives who support cuts and privatisation; the complicity of the Liberal Democrats and Labour’s repeated betrayal of students and workers is indicative of the three-party consensus in favour of cuts, privatisation and austerity programmes.
The historic result of the Bradford West by-election shows the demand for an alternative to the current political establishment, and I feel that alternative at the London elections is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). They are the only grouping opposed to the austerity agenda in its entirety. This is the first and most important step because it shatters the decontextualised image of painful cuts to welfare and public services as necessary and in the long-term interests of those who suffer immediately. It politically and vehemently rejects the idea that some of the most disadvantaged, underprivileged and vulnerable people in society should bear the burden for a catalogue of errors not of their own doing.
TUSC proposes an alternative: one that is fair to the majority and not the few, that supports the aspirations of young people rather than the profit of big companies and one that supports ordinary workers rather than rich bosses. Its key policies for young people include free education for all and an investment in jobs. For ordinary Londoners, it opposes increases in council tax and the privatisation of services.
TUSC have put forward a list of candidates, ranging from trade unionists to barristers (essentially people from all walks of life) for the London Assembly. The candidates can be found on the orange London-wide Assembly paper. If they manage to get 5% of votes across London, they will see their first candidate join the London Assembly. This would mean a powerful voice inside London’s decision-making body that is speaking up for ordinary Londoners. To achieve this, there is a pressing need for people to engage with the democratic process and elect representatives who will truly represent them. That’s why I will be voting TUSC, and I hope others will make the same decision.
In terms of the Mayoral race, Boris Johnson’s lead over Ken Livingstone looks increasingly insurmountable, but the race is certainly not over. In an election hustings last week, Ken Livingstone quoted from the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him):
“No Arab is superior to a non-Arab; no white man is superior to a black man…God created you in tribes and nations so that you would get to understand one another, and you will not terrorise or convert or oppress or invade, that you should get to know one another.”
In an age of rising Islamophobia across the Western world, Livingstone’s pleas for cultural understanding at an election hustings cannot be perceived as electioneering given the almost guaranteed negative press they would, and indeed did, garner. Yet he has positioned himself as a politician who is in tandem with all Londoners across the many social divides – and that is a message of unity we should all rally behind.
The views expressed in this article are the authors own and are not reflective of the independent, diverse and non-partisan views of The Platform.
Image by Rukia Begum
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