Opinion Former Article

PCS: Responses to union campaign reveal need for political reform

A campaign by the Public and Commercial Services union asking election candidates to support public services has revealed the need for more choice in politics.

A survey conducted by the union and its members as part of its Make Your Vote Count campaign shows a broad consensus among the main Westminster parties for cuts to public sector jobs and services.

While individual Labour and Liberal Democrat general election candidates were more likely than Tories to sign up to one or more of our five public service pledges, this was not generally mirrored by the responses from their national leaderships. Nationally, the Tories refused to respond other than to direct members to its manifesto.

The results are further confirmation of the need for a reform of our electoral system to allow more pro-public sector voices into politics, the union says. Delegates at PCS's annual conference in two weeks time will discuss the possibility of standing or supporting trade union candidates in future elections and will discuss how unions can best unite to resist public spending cuts.

Now in its fourth year, PCS's Make Your Vote Count campaign aims to put the union's issues at the heart of elections, challenging candidates where they stand on key issues including jobs, public services, tax justice and equality.

It also aims to stop far right parties from making any further electoral gains and PCS members campaigned extensively against the BNP over the general election period, including days of action in BNP target areas.

Earlier this year, the union published five public services pledges and asked candidates and national party leaders to sign up to them. PCS reps also organised 49 hustings meetings across the UK to allow candidates to answer questions from union members and the public.

All the responses received, and reports of the hustings events, have been published on the union's website. PCS is not affiliated to any political party and does not recommend a vote for any particular party, though it does urge people not to vote for the BNP.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This election has been closely fought, but over a worryingly narrow set of policies. Our campaign has exposed the gaps in this political consensus and identified the need for candidates that will stand up for public services.

"It also confirms our belief that trade unions will need to unite after the general election in fierce opposition to the cuts to jobs and public services that all the main parties are committed to.

"Faced with so little choice at the ballot box, the real fear is that many voters will register their protest by voting for the far right or just staying at home. This increases the likelihood of the BNP making a breakthrough, which would be a disaster for politics and our communities."

ENDS

Responses from candidates to our pledges

Job cuts:

Of the 41 Tory candidates who responded, 4 (9.75%) supported the pledge and 23 (56%) did not.

Of 51 Labour candidates, 42 (82.3%) supported and 3 (5.8%) did not.

Of 49 Lib Dem candidates, 11 (22.4%) supported and 24 (48.9%) did not.

66 out of 68 (97%) Greens supported, 2 (2.9%) were neutral. All 19 Plaid and SNP candidates who responded supported the pledge.

UK tax gap:

Of the 40 Tory candidates who responded, 17 (42.5%) supported the pledge and 8 (20%) did not.

Of 49 Labour candidates, 41 (83.6%) supported and 3 (6.1%) did not.

Of 49 Lib Dem candidates, 39 (79.5%) supported. Ten (20.4%) were neutral.

67 out of 68 (98.5%) Greens supported. All 19 Plaid and 17 SNP candidates who responded supported the pledge.

Pay:

Of the 41 Tory candidates who responded, 1 (2.4%) supported the pledge and 33 (80.4%) did not.

Of 51 Labour candidates, 40 (78.4%) supported and 3 (5.8%) did not.

Of 49 Lib Dem candidates, 8 (16.3%) supported and 28 (57.1%) did not.

62 out of 68 (91.1%) Greens supported and 2 (2.9%) did not. 9 (47.3%) Plaid supported and 10 (52.6%) did not. All of the SNP candidates said they did not support the pledge.

Pensions:

Of the 41 Tory candidates who responded, 6 (14.6%) supported the pledge and 26 (63.4%) did not.

Of 50 Labour candidates, 40 (80%) supported and 4 (8%) did not.

Of 39 Lib Dem candidates, 28 (71.7%) supported and 5 (12.8%) did not.

63 out of 68 (92.6%) Greens supported and 2 (2.9%) did not. All 19 Plaid supported and all 17 SNP candidates were neutral.

Equality:

Of the 41 Tory candidates who responded, 18 (43.9%) supported the pledge and 4 (9.7%) did not.

Of 51 Labour candidates, 43 (84.3%) supported and 3 (5.8%) did not.

Of 51 Lib Dem candidates, 43 (84.3%) supported and 3 (5.8%) did not

67 out of 68 (98.5%) Greens supported. All 19 Plaid and 17 SNP candidates who responded supported the pledge.

Read the pledges in full www.pcs.org.uk/pledges and for more about Make Your Vote Count, including party leaders' responses, is at pcs

Anti-fascist campaigning by PCS members

Distributing material as part of PCS's Love Public Services Hate Fascism campaign, including leaflets, posters and Hope not Hate anti-fascist tabloid newspapers.

Taking part in days of action in the BNP's main national targets of Stoke, and Barking and Dagenham.

For example, more than 20,000 people were canvassed or leafleted at a Unite Against Fascism and PCS day of action in Barking. A Hope not Hate joint-union day of action attracted 500 people delivering more than 82,000 tabloids.

PCS sponsored a Love Music Hate Racism carnival in Barnsley on 1 May attended by about 7,000 people.

Notes

- For information and interview requests, contact PCS national press officer Richard Simcox on 020 7801 2747 or 07833 978216

- The Public and Commercial Services union represents civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's fifth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich.

- Follow PCS on Twitter

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