Around 65 people attended a packed public meeting in Leeds last night to discuss standing as wide as possible a challenge in the 2015 elections. The meeting was co-hosted by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the Alliance for Green Socialism (AGS) and Left Unity.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Kath Owen, from Left Unity, introduced the meeting, referring to the momentous events in Greece which have changed the nature of discussions about challenging austerity.
Liz Kitching (TUSC/SWP member) commented on the ruling class is trying to lock us into austerity and later referenced how her and others in Hands off our Homes, the local anti-bedroom tax campaign, had felt let down and frustrated with Labour councillors & MPs who refused to lead a fight.
Mike Davies (AGS) commented mostly on issues around climate change, pointing out that the target of limiting increases in global temperature to 2%, which capitalist politicians have set, will mean disaster for many areas with more flooding and other disasters.
Ben Mayor (TUSC/Socialist Party) commented on the impact Syriza’s election victory could have around Europe being similar to that of Kshama Sawant in the US. He also commented on the political vacuum, that is leading people to vote Ukip or Green. He pointed out that we must patiently explain the limitations of both these groups, but the ‘Green Surge’ is mostly positive as people are joining them for their radical rhetoric and, when the Green’s disappoint, they will find themselves looking for a serious alternative.
A lively discussion ensued from the floor, with over 15 contributions including a few people who felt confident from the attendence to look themselves at standing in the council elections. Local RMT activist, Trevor Howard, spoke from the floor urging support for TUSC and for activists to argue within their unions to break with Labour.
No-one in the room disagreed with trying to mount as wide an election challenge as possible, although a minority did advocate voting Labour where there wasn’t a left challenge. However, many attendees felt that doing so would be advocating a vote for austerity, and several council workers attending commented on the frustrations of members with the union giving money to those attacking their jobs.
A follow up meeting is planned to discuss in detail involving those who attended and others in standing themselves and in supporting candidates in their local area. With a whole swathe of apologies from the meeting, it is clear there is a substantial body of activists in Leeds prepared to fight to present a genuine anti-austerity alternative at the ballot box in May.