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Monday 5 May 2014

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More local news coverage for TUSC, but BBC downplays council elections

TUSC's campaign for the council elections taking place on May 22nd picked up more coverage this week in local news media.

Salfod Star

Salfod Star   (Click to enlarge)

The standout article was in the Salford Star (see http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2253 ) which under the heading, 'Salford Labour Party to face huge anti-cuts electoral challenge', spoke of TUSC "mounting the biggest left challenge to Labour dominance, fielding candidates in nine of the twenty wards up for grabs". It also made the significant point that the Liberal Democrats, "once seen as the main opposition party in Salford", were fielding just two candidates this time.

A May Day election activity in Plymouth, where TUSC is standing candidates in all 19 of the city's wards, made the headlines in the Plymouth Herald (at http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Trade-unionist-coalition-hold-pre-election-rally/story-21055579-detail/story.html#ixzz30qO1e5MO ) with a good photo spread. Plymouth is another city where the Lib Dems' decline is on display, with the party contesting just four seats.

There was some decent coverage for TUSC in the Eastern region with the Peterborough Telegraph (www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk), speaking of a 'colourful battle' for the Town Hall, mentioning the TUSC challenge in six seats and highlighting the "well-known health care campaigner Mary Cooke representing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Orton Longueville" ward. The Watford Observer (www.watfordobserver.co.uk) headlined its piece on the local elections 'UKIP and the Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts party beef up their presence', referring to TUSC standing in half of the twelve wards in the borough.

In Yorkshire the Sheffield Telegraph (www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk) wrote about Labour coming under pressure from UKIP, which is contesting all bar two of the wards in the city. But it continued by saying that "Labour's support could also be hit by a new left-wing party, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is fighting 21 wards, focusing on opposition to the Con-Dem austerity agenda".

The Doncaster Free Press (www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk) also led on UKIP standing a full slate there. But it did say quite prominently in the article that "the Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts (TUSC), which is currently supporting striking Care UK workers who are fighting against 35 per cent pay cuts, have eleven candidates".

TUSC's support for the Care UK workers was the main subject of a story in the Thornton & District Gazette (see http://www.thornegazette.co.uk/news/local/care-uk-staff-to-present-petition-at-cabinet-meeting-1-6586615 ), quoting TUSC candidate Jason Fawley, whose wife works for Care UK, and the Doncaster TUSC election agent and health worker, Steve Williams. The Yorkshire Times (www.yorkshiretimes.co.uk) headlined with 'TUSC offers full support to striking firefighters', quoting an endorsement of Leeds TUSC candidate, Iain Dalton, by the West Yorkshire FBU Brigade Secretary.

What does the BBC say?

All this is in contrast to the election coverage of the BBC nationally, not just its complete refusal to mention TUSC and the biggest left-of-Labour election challenge for sixty years, but its political decision to concentrate on the European elections.

The BBC website has a special 'Guide to the 2014 European and local elections' which, after acknowledging that there are local elections taking place, explicitly says "but the big one this year is the European election on the same day". With this emphasis the site carries items on the English Democrats, for example, contesting the Euros but only standing in 31 local council seats. Who decided that the Euro polls are more important?

The website jokingly admits that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) "still shuttle between the two parliament buildings [in Brussels and Strasbourg] at regular intervals". That actually illustrates how toothless the 'European parliament' is - MEPs have voted on numerous occasions to sit in just one city (the shuttle farce costs €200m) but have been overruled by the EU Council, the representatives of national governments.

Local councillors can vote to evict or not to evict people who cannot pay the bedroom tax; to shut down or keep open a local library or Sure Start centre - or, as in Doncaster, to hand over a wage-slashing contract to Care UK or to withdraw it.

Councils still have enormous powers to affect the daily lives of working class people. For example, although the other parties won't admit it, councillors have the power to begin to tackle the housing crisis today (and not wait for a Labour government), by introducing rent caps now and using their borrowing powers to finance a council house building programme.

And what does an MEP do again? Well, the European election "can have a big impact on a party's mood and their leader's prospects ahead of the 2015 general election", the BBC tells us.

This infantilising approach to politics of the BBC's highly-paid leadership has one unintended positive side effect - it adds to the growing questioning of its authority, along with the other elite institutions in society and the tame 'mainstream' parties.

Meanwhile TUSC's election campaign, not relying on the media but taking what publicity it can get, is building confidence amongst those it reaches that there can be a working class political alternative to the austerity establishment.