THE TRADE Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was set-up in 2010 to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates against the pro-austerity establishment parties.
Under Britain's election laws candidates can only appear on the ballot paper as an 'Independent' if they are not endorsed by a registered political party.
That doesn't allow trade unionists or local anti-cuts campaigners to distinguish themselves as standing for something different to the mainstream. But using the TUSC name does.
Since 2010 hundreds of candidates have stood under the TUSC umbrella. A few have won council seats - while the TUSC candidate for Liverpool mayor in 2012 polled 4,792 votes, ahead of the Tories and double the UKIP vote.
TUSC candidates' average vote in the 2012 local elections was 6.2%, despite a media blackout.
Local community groups, trade unionists and anti-cuts candidates who want to stand under the TUSC banner have autonomy to run their own campaigns.
TUSC is a coalition with a national steering committee which includes leading trade unionists from the RMT transport workers' union, the PCS civil servants union, the National Union of Teachers, the Fire Brigade Union, and the Prison Officers Association (see below).
The RMT's 2012 annual general meeting agreed that the union should be officially represented. The Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the TUSC Independent Socialist Network, representing individuals not members of an affiliated organisation, also have committee places.
The current structure of TUSC (see How TUSC functions) is only an interim arrangement and discussions will continue to take place on the best way to organise the TUSC coalition as it develops in the future.
But by providing a means for fighting trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to work together in an electoral coalition, TUSC is already playing an important part in building an alternative to the pro-market, pro-cuts establishment parties.
TUSC national steering committee (at February 2013):
Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, Peter Pinkney, RMT National President, and RMT National Executive members Daren Ireland, Sean Hoyle, Darren Procter, Steve Skelly and Sean McGowan, representing the RMT; representatives from the Socialist Party, the SWP and the TUSC Independent Socialist Network; plus, in a personal capacity, Steve Gillan, POA General Secretary; Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary; Joe Simpson, POA Assistant General Secretary; John McInally, PCS Vice-President; Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive; Nina Franklin, ex-NUT President; Brian Caton, ex-POA General Secretary; Cllr Michael Lavalette; Nick Wrack.