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Manchester TUSC campaign finds strength in communities
In what represented a culmination of months of hard work, Manchester TUSC attended the election count in Manchester on Thursday night as the polls closed. The campaign, organised by dedicated activists, involved weeks of doorstop canvassing, leafleting, stalls and fundraising events across the city. The remarkable support received from local residents returned more votes than in the 2012 parliamentary byelection.
As the Scottish Labour vote collapsed, red rosettes and long faces were the order of the night in the Manchester Velodrome. Manchester has for decades been a staunch Labour stronghold, and the city has been described as a "one-party state" - the incumbents' jibes and laughter at smaller parties' results reflected this complacency.
TUSC though has stuck to the issues. The run up to 7th May has been an inspiration. The TUSC national election broadcast, coupled with increased resources and people power meant that we covered much more ground than previous campaigns, and were able to spread TUSC's anti-austerity message to more households than ever before.
Standing more candidates meant that our leaflet was delivered to almost 200,000 households, leaving us more time and energy to devote to doorstep canvassing and stalls. The conversations we have had on the estates and in workplaces city-wide point to a desire for sweeping changes.
The word on doorsteps across the city is 'betrayal'. Successive Labour governments and councils have failed to deliver for the working class of Manchester. Five years of Tory austerity, propped up by the rapidly collapsing Lib Dems and passed on without opposition by Labour councils, has taken its toll.
Services across the city have been slashed. There are nearly 4,000 households across the north west accepted by local authorities as homeless - add in the notoriously inaccurate figures on rough sleepers and the number is much larger.
A staunch Labour stronghold for decades, the council is comprised of 89 councillors under the Labour whip, plus one Labour 'Independent', who have repeatedly rubber-stamped Westminster cuts budgets, decimating services across the city. In March they passed a further £70 million of cuts in a stitch-up deal made behind closed doors, ratified in the council chamber. Not one councillor voted against.
Meanwhile, the reserves in the city coffers grow. The funds they officially label as unallocated stand at around £21 million. However, factoring in various other slush-funds and budget surpluses takes the figure to a whopping £238 million for 2014.
They have also been involved in the so-called DevoManc deal, a plan to devolve Manchester's healthcare budget to an elected mayor. In reality this is a dangerous idea that could lead to Manchester's health provision being cut off from the NHS and tendered out to private companies.
If passed, the scheme could be rolled out to other cities - the so-called "swiss cheese" approach to NHS privatisation.
As part of the campaign, Alex Davidson, TUSC parliamentary candidate and Emma Clark, TUSC council candidate for Moss Side appeared on local radio debating with Labour and the Greens, and put the TUSC message out across south Manchester and beyond.
They were able to challenge both parties on their record of voting for cuts, as well as making the point that only TUSC candidates pledge to accept only a worker's wage.
Feedback from the show was fantastic, and a flood of visitors to the TUSC stall in Moss Side confirmed the dissatisfaction with the status quo across Manchester's working class communities.
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central and key aid to Miliband, failed to turn up to any hustings where TUSC attended, including a key '38 degrees' debate featuring all candidates standing in the constituency. The only time she faced her electorate in the run-up to the election was at a Labour-organised event, to which TUSC was (controversially) not invited.
The TUSC campaign represents the only 100% anti-austerity, working class challenge to Labour in decades. We stood three parliamentary candidates, as well as 28 prospective councillors across Manchester, and built a solid campaign across parts of the city we haven't been able to reach before.
TUSC is coming to be a byword for opposition, resistance and community across the country. But we always knew that come 8th May, the resistance would continue. The fight goes on.