Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

Coventry Socialists campaign against library closures

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Campaigning in the City Centre

Members of Coventry Socialist Party were campaigning against library closures over the weekend, with a campaign stall in the City Centre and supporting the Save Coventry Libraries campaign at Arena Park Library.

Over 800 people signed the petition over the day, showing how strongly people object to the councils plan to close libraries across Coventry. Some libraries are threatened with closure altogether while some will be closed unless volunteers come forward to run them. Many staff will lose their jobs.

Arena Park is a well used library, but is scheduled to close on August 27th. While campaigning there on Saturday we found that many service users were not aware that it was closing and that there is no alternative provision.

More than 1000 people have signed the petition in total – Coventry Council should listen and not close libraries!

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith (left) collecting signatures

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Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

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While the media has attempted to spin last week’s elections as a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn, the reality of the situation is far more complex. The 25% increase in the Socialist vote in Coventry reflects a growing radicalisation and dissatisfaction with the right-wing policies of Labour in Coventry. The below article by Hannah Sell reflects on the situation nationally. Hannah is the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and will be speaking at our post-election rally on Thursday 12th May.

Running up to the May elections the Labour Party right wing – with the full backing of the capitalist class – set out to damage their own party’s chances in order to achieve what is, for them, a greater goal: undermining Jeremy Corbyn. The anti-Semitism uproar – initially relating to comments made by Naz Shah when Ed Miliband was leader – was a cynical attempt to try to prepare the ground for a coup against Corbyn, hoping that the local election results would then provide further ammunition.

Widespread predictions were made by Blairite MPs and in the right-wing media – now included in which is the Guardian – that Labour was on course to lose 100 or more council seats because of the supposed unpopularity of opposing austerity. That didn’t happen.

In Scotland Labour suffered a resounding defeat. That was partly inevitable given the hatred of Scottish workers for the role Labour played in the Scottish independence referendum, acting as the voice of big business’s Project Fear campaign. However good Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Scotland, he would not have been able to quickly overcome workers’ view of Labour as ‘red Tories’.

Unfortunately, however, Jeremy Corbyn has not taken a clear position of supporting the right of self-determination for Scotland which would have begun to win some credit back for Labour among the Scottish working class. Of course, had he adopted the pro-austerity ‘red Tory’ approach demanded by the Blairites – who are now blaming Corbyn for the result – Labour would have fared even worse in Scotland than it did.

But in England Labour maintained the same number of councils and only had a net loss of 18 seats, while slightly increasing its share of the vote from the general election. Far from a mass exodus from Labour in the south of England, Labour retained control of key councils including Southampton and Exeter. Significantly, it won the mayors of Bristol and London – the sixth biggest city and the capital – with clear majorities.

The racist campaign by the Tories in London backfired and London is now the first city in Europe with a Muslim mayor, while Bristol – a city built on slavery – now has the first mayor in Europe of African-Caribbean descent.

Labour won the two parliamentary byelections in Sheffield Brightside and Ogmore, with an increased majority in the former. That inconvenient fact may have temporarily stayed the hands of Corbyn’s enemies. Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, openly appealed on Radio 4 to Labour MPs to “have patience” – suggesting not that they should support Jeremy Corbyn, but that they couldn’t move against him yet given the election results and the size of his mandate.

Labour’s right and left

That has not prevented, however, an escalation in the civil war in the Labour Party. Endless successions of Labour MPs are touring the TV studios to explain why – even though their dire predictions did not materialise – this was still a truly terrible election result for Labour. Leading the charge has been the newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan who, as we predicted, is setting out his new position as a platform against Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, the leadership of Momentum, which purports to organise Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, has spent recent weeks uncritically mobilising in support of Sadiq Khan, without even warning its membership about the role that he – a man who has said he wants more billionaires in London – was clearly set to play.

The pro-Corbyn wing of the party has not as yet fought back like it should against the blows being rained down on it, but has vainly attempted to paper over the gaping chasm. Left MP Clive Lewis has appealed to Corbyn to “compromise, reach out”, including on policy questions. As if events of the last weeks don’t prove conclusively that there is no compromise that could successfully pacify the Blairites.

For the right of the Labour Party – and behind them the 1%, the capitalist class – are desperate to once again make their party safe for big business. That means routing the nascent anti-austerity movement that thrust Jeremy Corbyn into power. The only way to defeat the right is not to retreat but to continue to build that movement around a clear pro-working class programme.

Expressions of the anger

And last Thursday’s elections in no way demonstrated that anti-austerity ideas are unpopular. On the contrary, anger at the misery this government is inflicting on the majority is growing. It was not by any means, however, channelled exclusively in the direction of Labour. Instead it was fragmented.

While many voted Labour, others’ view of that party – which has implemented pro-big business policies in power and at local level for decades – had not changed. Some refused to vote Labour because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right-wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats are trying to lay the blame at Corbyn’s door. But they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme. That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for Ukip.

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood succeeded in defeating Labour in the Rhondda, a traditional Labour stronghold. Her party also increased its share of the vote, making it the second party in the Welsh Assembly. Charlotte Church will not have been alone in voting for Plaid Cymru while continuing to support Jeremy Corbyn, because she recognised that the leadership of Labour in Wales is not anti-austerity.

In Scotland the SNP won 46.5% of the vote for the Scottish parliament, an increase of 1% from four years ago. It had a small fall in its number of seats only because of the vagaries of the electoral system.

The Greens had a net loss of four councillors in England but increased their vote in many areas, overtaking the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth party in terms of vote share. In Scotland they increased their MSPs from two to six and in the London Mayoral contest they scored their highest ever share of the vote.

Similarly they doubled their vote for the Liverpool Mayor to 10,609. Combined with the creditable 4,950 votes for TUSC’s candidate Roger Bannister, this meant that 15% of voters in Liverpool consciously chose to vote for candidates that they perceived as being to the left of Labour and more anti-austerity. Even the votes for Ukip, who won 10% of the votes across council elections in England and came second in both parliamentary byelections, primarily reflect anger and disillusionment with establishment politicians.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Unfortunately, all of those parties, with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level. TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services, which are destroying local government. That is why the Birmingham Post called TUSC “arguably the fiercest defenders of local government itself”.

Despite limited resources and a boycott by the national media, it was vital that TUSC stood candidates, in order to offer a socialist and working class alternative to austerity (see www.tusc.org.uk for more detail on TUSC results).

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners – including the transport workers’ union, the RMT – which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box. We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledge not to stand against those that did so. However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves. Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year. They could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tory divisions and retreats

In the coming weeks the EU referendum campaign will dominate the political agenda. Historically Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed the EU as an undemocratic club acting in the interests of the bankers and big business. If he had stood by that position it would have transformed the EU referendum campaign – which is currently dominated by right-wing big business politicians on both sides. Unfortunately, under huge pressure from the Labour right and the capitalist class, Jeremy Corbyn retreated on this issue.

Nonetheless, the Tories remain split down the middle over Europe. Already they have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues, including now on the forced academisation of schools. In the aftermath of the referendum Cameron, and potentially the Tory Party, could be ejected from power. A powerful, united movement could bring a halt to austerity and force the Tories to call a general election. Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24-hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with ‘the 4.5%’ – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party. Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

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Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

We are pleased to carry the below article by Hannah Sell, the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party. Hannah will be speaking at our post-election rally.

The right-wing media had been claiming that this year’s elections would prove it was unpopular to oppose austerity.

The Blairites in the Labour Party have sung from the same hymn sheet – predicting that Labour would lose a huge number of seats, resulting in Corbyn being forced out.

One right-wing Labour MP even told Kevin Maguire of the Mirror that, “a defeat for Labour’s London Mayor hopeful Sadiq Khan was a price worth paying if it triggered Corbyn’s downfall”.

But to the disappointment of the Tories and pro-austerity Labour MPs the elections showed not the popularity of austerity, cuts and privatisation but the growing anger against them.

At the time of writing not all elections have been counted but it is clear that the Tories have been decisively defeated in the London Mayoral contest and that Labour’s vote has held up in the English council elections.

In the year since the general election this government for the super-rich has escalated its attacks on the rest of us.

Austerity Myth

The myth that austerity was temporary and misery today would lead to plenty for all in the future has also been severely undermined. As a result increasing numbers of voters set out to express their anger at the polls.

However, there was no one party which voters used to protest against austerity. Instead anti-austerity anger was fragmented.

While many voted Labour others refused to do so because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats will try and lay the blame at Corbyn’s door, but they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme.

That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the SNP in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for UKIP.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

Unfortunately, all of those parties with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level.

TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services.

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners, including the transport workers’ union, the RMT, which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box.

We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledging not to stand against those that did so.

However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves.

Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year and could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tories Split

Split down the middle over Europe, the Tories have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues; including now on the academisation of schools.

A powerful united movement could bring a halt of austerity and force the Tories to call a general election.

Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24 hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party.

Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity.

Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party. Events of recent weeks show that no compromise is possible with the pro-capitalist wing – which is determined to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as soon as possible.

The election results do not give them the excuse they hoped for to move quickly, but they will act as soon as they can.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood in a mass, democratic movement.

To succeed this cannot be led by those who see the way forward within the narrow and undemocratic constraints of the existing Labour Party and whose approach is for endless compromise with the pro-austerity warmongers that dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Instead it means building a movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those workers, young people and community activists who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party. The Socialist Party will do all we can to assist in the building of such a movement.

Coventry Socialists announce 2016 election campaign

Coventry Socialists announce 2016 election campaign

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TUSC activists rally against cuts

Election nominations are closed and we can now confirm that Socialist candidates will be standing in all 18 wards in Coventry for the local elections in May. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), backed by the RMT transport workers union, will be standing anti-cuts candidates across the country.

Before making the decision to stand, we wrote to every Labour candidate in Coventry and asked them to meet with us to discuss whether they would be willing to vote against cuts – cuts that will lead to the closure of libraries, public toilets, adult education centres and community centres. None of them would even agree to meet us. Ann Lucas and her colleagues have also signed up the city up to George Osborne’s West Midlands Combined Authority, without even allowing Coventry people a vote.

Our candidates include Dave Nellist in St Michaels, as well as leading trade unionists, young workers, students and community activists.

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, wants to fight austerity .We support Jeremy’s anti-austerity policies – it is regrettable that Coventry Labour Councillors have voted to implement the Tory cuts on our city with some Councillors more concerned with attacking Jeremy than fighting the Tories.

As we have done previously, the Socialist Party and TUSC will set out a programme to fight the cuts – including the use of some of the £84 million of reserves that the Council has. This could fund services and delay the cuts, buying time for the building of a mass city wide campaign involving unions, local communities and anti-cuts groups to win back the money stolen from our city by the Tories.

We will also make the case that the Panama Papers tax scandal shows that the money exists in our society for decent public services and housing for all – the problem is that it is in the hands of the 1 per cent at the top. It is austerity for us, tax evasion for the rich! That is why we need socialism.

Will you be voting for the Socialists? Can you help with our campaign by leafleting, putting up a poster or donating? If so, fill in the form below!

Our best pictures of today’s protest

Our best pictures of today’s protest

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Off to London – Tories out!

Over 50 people from Coventry and Leamington joined the anti-austerity protest in London today, including a number of members of Coventry Socialist Party. Below are some of the best pictures we took today!

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Time for Cameron to go – and take the rest of the Tories with him!

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The FBU fire engine!

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Teachers say no to forced academisation

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Tories out – time for a general strike!

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

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On the bus to London – Tories out!

Coventry Socialist Party members are joining a march against austerity in London today. Trade unionists on the Coventry bus represented a number of unions including Unite, UNISON, Coventry TUC, NUT, CWU and PCS.

Jane Nellist from Coventry NUT said “We are joining the march today because we have to ensure that we build a fightback against Tory plans to destroy our public services.”

Socialists will be building the fight against austerity and arguing for a socialist alternative to capitalism. The Tories are split, the trade union movement needs to organise a 24 hour general strike to co-ordinate the fightback!

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NUT and CWU members from Coventry

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

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Cllr David Kershaw

A Coventry Labour councillor has set up a business designed to take over schools and turn them into academies. Councillor David Kershaw, who is cabinet member for education, is heading a new academy company called the West Midlands Academy Trust.

Writing in the Coventry Observer, Les Reid revealed that the company was set up just last month by Cllr Kershaw and is believed “to be in line to win Tory government permission to take over five struggling schools in Birmingham. The five schools are understood to be those which make up the Perry Beeches Trust and are already Academies. The fact that these schools are struggling is a clear indictment of the government’s Academies programme.

Cllr Kershaw has done this at a time when Labour are campaigning against Tory plans to force schools to become academies, and have been distributing leaflets around Woodlands ward claiming local Labour council candidate Patricia Hetherton is “fully behind the campaign to save Woodlands Academy”. After the release of the Panama Papers implicating leading politicians in tax dodging, this is yet another example of hypocrisy.

Hetherton’s leaflet also claims that “[she] knew that the opening of Finham Park 2 would have an impact on student numbers in the area”. “Local” Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson also features on the leaflet, and last month he said the same to the Coventry Telegraph. However, while they say this now, Cllr Kershaw wrote to the Department for Education last year expressing support for Finham Park 2!

Cllr Kershaw has also been key in advocating and pushing through the council’s library closure plans, and the (currently shelved) plans to cut transport to schools for disabled children. As a former headteacher, it is shocking that he seems willing to make cuts that will clearly damage children’s education.

Other partners in the business include Alan East, a Labour candidate for Bablake ward in May. Locally this is yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another – how do Kershaw’s actions compare with the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are campaigning against the enforced academisation of all schools and will be balloted over strike action against funding cuts and threats to teacher’s contracts and pay and conditions. We give them our full support – concerted industrial action can stop these plans and bring this government down!