Why I’m standing for TUSC in Woodlands

Why I’m standing for TUSC in Woodlands

Sarah Smith with other anti bedroom tax campaigners stopping an eviction

Sarah Smith with other anti bedroom tax campaigners stopping an eviction

Our candidate in Woodlands is local campaigner Sarah Smith. Sarah explains below why she is standing as a Socialist candidate


I have been an active supporter of the Save Coventry Libraries campaign since the campaign was set up and I support the campaign to save Woodlands School as well as other local services. I also helped to start Coventry against the Bedroom Tax, working with other campaigners to stop being residents being evicted.

Unlike the local Labour candidate Patricia Hetherton, and other Labour candidates in Coventry, I support Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies in words and deeds and I will stand up and fight to save our services against vicious Tory attacks being implemented by the Labour Council.

The trade unions UNITE and UNISON have passed policy that calls on the council to use some of the £84 million of reserves to hold off the cuts, which would buy time for a mass campaign to be built. Do the other candidates also support union policy on this?

While local Labour leaflets carry the headline “Save Our School”, their Councillors supported the establishment of Finham Park 2 which has contributed to the school being threatened with closure! I’m against academies and free schools, and support teachers, parents and pupils who campaign against them.

I am standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) because it’s a true left wing socialist alternative, made up of working class people like me. I will continue to campaign for the people of Coventry, and against the capitalist lie that austerity has to happen.

Live in Woodlands and want to help Sarah? Get in touch by completing the form below!

 

Record number of evictions in Coventry

Record number of evictions in Coventry

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Anti-bedroom tax campaigners prevent a tenant from being evicted

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice have shown a record number of tenants were evicted in Coventry last year. 288 homes were repossessed in the city, a 14% rise from 2014 – and the Citizens Advice Bureau has reported a 100% rise in enquiries about homelessness.

Sophie Parks, communications and marketing manager for Coventry CAB, was quoted in the Coventry Telegraph saying “The cost of living and low wages are factors but undoubtedly it is welfare reforms that are the predominant cause [of the rise in evictions].”

The MOJ figures only cover private tenancies, but last year Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax campaigners prevented two evictions from social housing properties which were caused by the bedroom tax and other benefit cuts. Sadly more evictions are to be expected with benefit cuts continuing to bite.

Coventry has become a paradise for landlords, with low regulation and plenty of students to exploit with higher rents – regardless of the consequences for communities throughout the city. The council should introduce compulsory registration for all landlords, and a cap on rents – but perhaps it’s not surprising that they haven’t done this, as at least eight Labour councillors including council leader Ann Lucas are believed to be landlords!

Coventry Socialist Party calls for:

  • No evictions here! An end to all evictions caused by benefit cuts and the bedroom tax. Join Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax‘s Anti Eviction Network!
  • Build council homes! For thousands of new council homes in Coventry.
  • End landlordism! Compulsory registration for all landlords in the city, to stop dodgy landlords ripping us off.
  • Cap rents not benefits! For a cap on rents to stop landlords milking tenants and raking in housing benefit with extortionate rents.

 

Our 10 most popular posts in 2015

Our 10 most popular posts in 2015

No evictions here!

No evictions here!

As we move in to 2016, we look back at our 10 most popular posts from 2015. Our website received a record number of views in 2015, and we thank all of those who wrote articles, contributed photographs, or who shared our articles on social media. It makes a big difference!

We have published dozens of articles on a wide variety of issues – from important campaigns in the city and surrounding area such as Save Coventry Libraries, from picket lines when strikes have taken place, the anti Bedroom Tax movement and the struggles of youth and students.

In 2016 we encourage you to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter and to take the next step in the fight for Socialism!

Here are the 10 most popular articles from 2015

  1. TUSC wins nearly 400 votes in Kenilworth
  2. Dave Nellist on the Artist Taxi Driver
  3. Museum staff forced to take pay cut
  4. Over 100 people join Coventry protest against austerity
  5. ‘Either we fight or we lay down and die’ – Protest at Coventry City Link
  6. Dave Nellist outlines the Socialist response to the TTIP deal
  7. Another eviction stopped in Coventry
  8. 2015 elections – Vote Socialist on 7th May
  9. Nellist welcomes left wing victory in Greece
  10. Coventry students demand £10 for uni workers

We wish you a Happy New Year, join us in the struggle for socialism in 2016!

 

 

Another eviction stopped in Coventry

Another eviction stopped in Coventry

#NoEvictionsHere

#NoEvictionsHere

Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax campaigners went into action at very short notice a few days ago. For the second time in a few months we stopped an eviction planned by Whitefriars housing association. CABT chair John Boadle wrote this report.

Holbrooks resident Steve G was in such a low state from illness and benefit cuts that he had been unable to deal with it and only phoned me the afternoon before bailiffs were due at 10.30am to throw him onto the street.

We set to work as a team. I phoned Whitefriars to tell them we wouldn’t allow an eviction – and remind them of the embarrassing blaze of publicity we caused them last time! They wouldn’t back off but offered last-second negotiations in the morning.

While some Socialist Party members contacted people asking them to come out in the morning, I went round to get the full details. It turned out to be other benefit cuts that had driven Steve into rent arrears, not the bedroom tax. This gave some cause for thought, but so what? We couldn’t just walk away.

In the morning Steve, Dave Nellist and myself met Whitefriars managers. Dave calmly explained that with proper benefits advice there were a number of ways the position could be sorted out. Mindful of the blockade assembling outside Steve’s house at that very moment, the managers backed down and went with us to the County Court to seek suspension of the eviction order.

While this was happening I drove up to Steve’s house and spoke to the protesters. Twelve people had made it, which at zero notice on a working day wasn’t bad, and they had already knocked on neighbours’ doors to tell them what was happening. I explained that we had won, but only because they had made the effort to get there.

Two of us waited with Steve’s family for him to get back. An appointment to get expert benefits advice had already been made and it was great to see the looks on people’s faces changed from despair to hope. There are people out there who will help, if you ask the right ones. They had asked Geoffrey Robinson MP to help, but their call was only returned by an assistant that afternoon; he would have been talking to homeless people if it wasn’t for us!

We’d like to thank everyone who took part. We’ve now prevented two evictions at the eleventh hour, and we’ve helped a few more people before it got to that stage. With Tory benefit cuts biting, the situation will be looking even bleaker for ordinary working class families – that’s why we need a fightback against austerity now more than ever!

Over 100 people join Coventry protest against austerity

Over 100 people join Coventry protest against austerity

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Over 100 people marched through Coventry on Wednesday in a protest against the austerity measures announced at the opening of Parliament. The protest, organised by campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs and supported by a number of groups and trade unions, had speakers from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the People’s Assembly, Coventry City Unison and Coventry TUC.

The march around the City Centre was loud and energetic, with chants of “no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts” and “if you hate the Tory Party clap your hands”! People were there from a number of different campaigns such as Coventry against the Bedroom Tax, Save the NHS campaigners from 38 Degrees,  workplaces, schools and colleges, as well as a number of people who had travelled from outside the city – from Leamington, Nuneaton and Bedworth. A number of people were on their first protest and a common remark was ‘it is time to do something’.

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The protest was mainly built using social media, with the turnout showing some of the anger people feel at the prospect of “five more damned years” of austerity.

Kris O’Sullivan, president of Coventry Socialist Students, spoke about the importance of solidarity over the next five years of austerity, giving the example of socialist activists and local residents preventing bedroom tax victim Archie Millar from being evicted.

One young woman, Steph, spoke passionately about her experiences of working on a zero-hour contract while trying to study – she was forced to leave her job after having to work 9 hour shifts without a break.

Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

Speakers  talked about the need for a mass turnout on the People’s Assembly demonstration in London on 20th June – coaches are going from Coventry and everyone should book a place!

One attendee at the Coventry protest, Peter, a retired worker from Holbrooks asked ‘Where are the Labour councillors? They should be here protesting against the Tories!’ It was true, once again local councillors, our representatives were completely absent from a protest against austerity.

TUSC candidate for Sherbourne, Jason Toynbee, closed the rally with a speech about the need to build an alternative to austerity – whether it’s being implemented by Labour or the Tories.

Unison members marching against austerity

Unison members marching against austerity

The point made by Jason and others was key. Austerity is going to be the ‘new normal’. We face the battle of our lives to beat back the attacks that our coming. We need more and bigger protests. It is abundantly clear that the only future that capitalism offers is one of austerity cuts, attacks on working class people and closure of vital services  – whilst the rich continue to make huge profits. We need to fight capitalism – we think the best way to do that is to fight for a different type of system, a socialist society that puts people before profit, our lives before the needs of the super rich. Help us build this movement, it really is time to get involved!

Fill in the form below to get involved!

Packed room for Socialist election rally

Packed room for Socialist election rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed into the Methodist Central Hall for the Coventry Socialists pre-election rally with Irish Socialist Party MP Ruth Coppinger last week.

Socialist activist and TUSC candidate for North Warwickshire, Eileen Hunter, opened the rally with some reflections on her campaign in the closest marginal seat in the country. John Boadle from Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax then spoke about the planned eviction of Archie Millar, a Coventry resident hit by the bedroom tax, that was prevented by socialists, TUSC candidates and neighbours. Archie was applauded for his strength in fighting back – community campaigners can win!

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Ruth then spoke about the situation in Ireland, where there has been a mass movement against austerity, including huge demonstrations and non-payment of water charges. She also spoke about the campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on same-sex marriage, and against the ban on abortion. Dave Nellist spoke to close the rally, and addressed a number of issues about cuts and austerity. He pointed out that the £70billion+ in bonuses given out by banks since the financial crisis is equivalent to the cuts made to the public sector, and that the super-rich have increased their wealth in that time – “there’s enough wealth in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands!”

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

The rally showed the potential to build the anti austerity socialist alternative in Coventry, something we will continue to do after the election. The election is on Thursday, but Socialists won’t stop campaigning on Friday morning – we’ll keep fighting all year round. Want to help TUSC? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

No evictions here!

No evictions here!

“Most people know the Bedroom Tax is a bad thing, and all parties except the Tories are committed to repealing it. But unlike the rest the Socialist Party has always made it clear we would do whatever it takes to defend people suffering its effects. Two years ago we set up Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax. We held public meetings with 200 in attendance, lobbied, protested and publicised, gave advice to many, went to tribunals and court hearings. We helped people get thousands of pounds via appeals and Discretionary Payments. We expected eviction attempts would be reached a year or more back, but Housing Associations like Whitefriars have been slow to take that step, not wanting to look like the villains of the piece.

Suddently this changed when Charterhouse resident Archie Millar phoned last week to say he was to be evicted at 10.00 on Monday. Archie has lived on St Margaret Road since 1976, becoming the tenant when his mother passed away nine years ago. He used to work for Parcelforce but is now unemployed, getting £72 JSA plus his rent via Housing Benefit. The Bedroom Tax means a £25 shortfall in that, which he’s expected to meet out of his JSA leaving him with just £47 a week to pay his bills and live on. Clearly that’s impossible and despite making some payments Archie’s £1700 in arrears. He tried everything to come to terms with Whitefriars. They wouldn’t let him move to a smaller place because he’s in arrears (talk about Catch-22!) and blocked him taking in a lodger even though that was endorsed at a court hearing. Eviction would leave Archie homeless. He tried Welfare Rights advice but all they could offer was the phone number for the Salvation Army and the RSPCA for his dog.

We couldn’t let that happen. Our resources are fully committed to the TUSC election campaign, but we got to work on helping Archie. Dave Nellist approached Whitefriars with a detailed proposal but to no avail, and we organised a protest and media coverage over the course of a weekend. We contacted scores of Party members and other volunteers and about 30 people assembled outside Archie’s house in time to confront the Whitefriars representative, bailiffs, locksmith,  and eventually two vanloads of police who took position scattered along the other side of the road.

The protesters included trade unionists, students and local residents. Some neighbours turned out because they knew Archie, others just because they know what’s right. Archie commented ‘I never knew there were so many good people around’. We packed into the front garden and on the pavement, Archie was in his house with the door firmly locked and a burly trade unionist outside! The protest was deliberately kept peaceful and disciplined to avoid the police intervening. But the atmosphere was determined and excited, with placards, the TUSC banner, laughter and chatter. The media turned up and were very helpful, filming, photographing and interviewing throughout.

Sarah Smith, a Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax organiser and TUSC candidate in Woodlands, pointed out that CABT called for Whitefriars and other social landlords to implement a non-eviction policy for bedroom tax arrears two years ago! She said “Labour claim they’re against the bedroom tax – if that’s the case, why haven’t the three Coventry Labour councillors on the board of Whitefriars stood up and opposed Archie’s eviction, and any others?”

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

The forces on the other side of the road were obviously a lot less cheerful, realising they were not going to get Archie out without a struggle and the world’s worst publicity. The stand-off continued for an hour. During that time Dave Nellist negotiated with Whitefriars, whose bosses were clearly finding themselves in an unfamiliar and awkward position, under the glare of the media spotlight, anxious to find a way out without appearing to back down too much. Finally they called the eviction off and the bailiffs’ van sped away past the protestors, to a chorus of cheers and jeers. We got Archie out, thanked everyone and ended the successful protest, proud of showing what solidarity and people power can do.

What next? Well Whitefriars are suspending their action until June now, while a long-term solution is found. This should have happened before, but Archie would have been out on the street without our action. We expect something acceptable will be found, negotiating with Whitefriars and the Council, especially in the context of the Bedroom Tax’s forthcoming abolition. But if not, we’ll be back. Media coverage since Monday has been very complete, with reports from the Coventry Telegraph, Coventry Observer, BBC Coventry and Warwick radio, Free Radio and BBC Midlands Today. The latter posted a video of the protest on Facebook which has had almost 300,000 views! They commented that this shows the action caught people’s interest and they are keen to do a follow-up to tell viewers the final outcome.

Personally I am proud of how Coventry Socialist Party responded to this sudden threat. It shows how committed and organised we are, even at short notice and when our attention was focussed in another direction. I think the successful outcome came from us being able to organise lively direct action, effective media relations, knowledge of the issue, negotiating skills and an established reputation in the local area. We use those strengths battling away all the time but it’s great when you do win! No-one who participated will forget this for a long time.”

John Boadle, Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

You can watch some video coverage of the protest here. An interview with Archie and John is below.

Do you want to help stop future evictions or support TUSC candidates? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Looking Back At 2014’s Heroes And Villains!

Looking Back at 2014’s Heroes and Villains!

covtusc2014

2014 was a year that showed the brutal nature of capitalism on many occasions – and also the strength and power ordinary people have when we fight back! So here’s our list of 2014’s heroes and villains.

 “Sir” Nigel Thrift

For Warwick University’s Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift, he began 2014 as he ended it – by giving himself a pay rise! As we reported in January, the inappropriately named Thrift increased his pay from £316,000 to £332,000 at the start of the year – he’s just put it up again to £348,000! This means that since “Shifty Thrifty” became VC in 2006, his pay has gone up by 26% – while other workers have seen their pay cut by 6-7% in real terms.

Nigel wondering how much to pay himself next year

Nigel wondering how much to pay himself next year

So what has Nige done to justify this salary? Well, at the start of December he defended the shocking violence used by police against peaceful student protesters – they were CS sprayed, slammed to the floor and threatened with a taser. The University management then sought an injunction against students who were peacefully occupying part of the Rootes building – and successfully managed to ban occupations on campus indefinitely. Despite this, not only has Thrift given himself yet another pay rise – he’s also been given a knighthood!

So Thrift is definitely on our villains list – but it’s not all bad at Warwick!

Warwick Uni Protesters

There were a number of demonstrations at Warwick last year, organised by various different groups. In June, after the media revealed that a member of the openly fascist group National Action was studying at Warwick, over 200 students joined an anti-fascist demo to oppose them and other far-right groups.

Over 1000 students gather at Warwick for #copsoffcampus protest

Over 1000 students gather at Warwick for #copsoffcampus protest

In December after a peaceful sit-in demonstration was viciously attacked by police, Warwick students immediately organised a #CopsOffCampus demo in response, which was attended by around 1000 people! Hundreds of students then occupied the top floor of the Rootes building in protest, and issued a list of demands to the university – rather than responding to the demands, management organised “negotiations” which were a sham, and sought an injunction against the occupiers. Despite this, students are planning to keep fighting in the new year – so they’re very much heroes of 2014!

Ann Lucas

After the actions of Coventry Council in 2014 no list of villains would be complete without including the council’s Labour leader Ann Lucas, who has happily signed off on cuts to thousands of jobs, loads of crucial services and even cut funding to local charities like Coventry Haven.  The council’s “City Centre First” plan, if carried out, will devastate the city’s services.

Protestors outside the Council House

Anti-cuts protestors outside the Council House

The Council also sold the Ricoh Arena to Wasps for a pittance, threatening the existence of CCFC and Cov Rugby Club.

One particularly vicious cut planned by the council was to cut transport to school for disabled children – however they went back on this after a protest outside the council house!

Anti-Cuts Protesters

Throughout the year there have been repeated protests against cuts being carried out by Coventry Council. These have been organised by different organisations including Coventry Against the Cuts, Disabled People Against Cuts and a number of different trade unions – and supported by the Socialist Party and TUSC. As mentioned above, one of these protests – against cuts to disabled children’s transport – forced the council to reverse their plans.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students campaigning against cuts

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students campaigning against cuts

The position of Coventry TUC, Coventry Unison, TUSC and the Socialist Party is that the council shouldn’t simply carry out the Tory cuts, but should use some of their £81million reserves to fund services for a year and buy them some time to build a campaign to demand the rest of the money from central Government.

Striking Workers

Workers have been under attack from this Government since they took power, and continued to fight back in 2014. Teachers in the NUT went on strike in April against attacks on the education system, and over 800 joined a rally in Birmingham on the day. The Fire Brigades Union has taken strike action repeatedly throughout the year against the Governments plans to cut their pensions and make them work until they’re 60. PCS members in HMRC also took action in June, and again on July 10th. 6 unions (Unison, Unite, GMB, FBU, NUT and PCS) took action on “J10” and 500 workers rallied in Broadgate against the cuts!

Industrial action is a key weapon available to the working class to fight the bosses – in 2015 we need to develop co-ordinated national industrial action between the unions and develop and support local community campaigns to defend services. At the same time, we should build the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to develop working class political representation that can challenge the Westminster mainstream parties who are united behind the same austerity agenda.

Four Coventry Families Threatened With Eviction Every Day

Four Coventry Families Threatened With Eviction Every Day 

Eviction-Notice

Recent figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that in the past 12 months 1,392 families in Coventry were threatened with eviction – more than four every day. This shocking statistic is part of a growing problem in Coventry and across the country, as more and more of us struggle to make ends meet because of cuts and rising living costs.

Many of these families are in rent arrears because of the “bedroom tax”, and as a result are being threatened with eviction. One of the housing associations threatening to evict tenants is Whitefriars, which has 3 Labour councillors on its board – they should be fighting the bedroom tax, not threatening those affected by it!

Coventry’s Labour Council lets landlords exploit tenants with few restrictions, and has taken no action over the growing number of eviction threats being made and the increasing problem of “landlordism” across the city. However, this is perhaps unsurprising as, according to the Coventry Telegraph, 8 Labour councillors are landlords themselves!

Anti-bedroom tax campaigners marching against evictions

Anti-bedroom tax campaigners marching against evictions

Coventry Council should be fighting cuts, not implementing them – and building decent homes for people to live in. There should be compulsory registration of landlords and a cap on rents. Now someone putting that forward would be worth voting for!

Bedroom Tax beaten in Scotland

Bedroom Tax beaten in Scotland

Bedroom Tax protest

Bedroom Tax protest

The Scottish Government has effectively abolished the “bedroom tax” in Scotland by increasing the funding for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to ensure that tenants will not be affected.

Campaigners from Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax welcomed this decision, with campaigner Robert McArdle saying

“This is a victory for campaigners against the bedroom tax across the UK. The Scottish Government has been forced to support tenants by using Discretionary Housing Payments, exactly what we’ve been asking Coventry Council to do – if they and other councils do the same, we can beat this law.”

Former Labour MP and Socialist councillor Dave Nellist supports the campaign, and restated the campaigns determination to fight the bedroom tax, saying

“This decision by the Scottish Government begs the question, if they can beat the bedroom tax why can’t Coventry Council? We will continue to demand housing associations like Whitefriars refuse to evict tenants affected by the bedroom tax.”

The following is an article from members of the Socialist Party in Scotland, who have been at the forefront of the campaign against this hated tax.

Article from Socialist Party Scotland 

The bedroom tax has been effectively defeated in Scotland. The announcement that the Scottish government intends to end the crushing burden of the hated and reviled bedroom tax is a huge victory.

Mass campaigning, the organisation of hundreds of public meetings the length and breadth of Scotland; thousands marching on demonstrations; lobbies and protests of councils, MSPs and the Scottish government and a refusal to accept any possibility of evictions, proved an unstoppable force.

The defeat of the hated tax will also give a huge boost to campaigners in England and Wales who will step up demands for its abolition and for councils and housing associations to refuse to carry out evictions.

The Scottish government has asked the Con-Dems at Westminster to allow it to provide payments to kill off the tax for 2014/15.

Regardless of whether the Tories allow this, the money can and must be given to social landlords by the Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Scotland to write off all bedroom tax from 1 April 2013 onwards.

The Scottish government had come under enormous pressure from the anti-bedroom tax campaign that, from the start, demanded the SNP use the powers it has to scrap the tax.

The Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, that united the majority of the local campaigns and in which Socialist Party Scotland members played a leading role, was crucial in this victory.

The campaign in Scotland will remain vigilant and will continue to fight to demand all bedroom tax debts are written off.

And that any and all legal action currently being taken by councils and housing associations, leading to possible eviction, is immediately suspended.

The campaign shows that austerity can be defeated. Imagine what could be achieved if the UK’s seven million-strong trade union movement is mobilised in the form of a 24-hour general strike against all the Con-Dems’ cuts.

…now let’s end all council cuts

The Con-Dem government has slashed spending by over 25% to the ten most deprived areas in England which includes Manchester, Liverpool, and Hackney and Newham in east London.

The government severely cut council tax support to local authorities by £500 million last year. £100 million of this cut was deferred by transitional support arrangements which have now ended.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Trust charity the latest round of government cuts to local authorities will mean 270,000 of the poorest households (who previously could claim a full council tax rebate) seeing their council tax bills rise, on average, by £80 to £176 a year.

Currently, some 600,000 people are in council tax arrears and 500,000 have been issued with court summons for non-payment. 400,000 people have been issued with liability notices and 70,000 have received bailiff letters.

Despite shadow Labour ministers condemning this Con-Dem iniquity, Labour councils have simply passed the government’s spending cuts onto the backs of their poorest residents.

We need an alternative

Labour has failed to protect the most vulnerable, so what is the point of voting in the May elections for a party that has failed to mobilise any effective opposition to this government of brutal austerity?

Any suggestion that an incoming Labour government will reverse these cuts is wishful thinking as Ed Balls has already announced that he would stick with Chancellor Osborne’s budget plans.

All the more reason why working class people should unhesitatingly cast their votes for Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates (which include Socialist Party members), and also campaign for and stand as TUSC candidates themselves.