It was with developments on this front that Brother A began his lead off. He began by noting how he can understand how some comrades and others who were supportive of No2EU are frustrated with the pace of events. But the ad hoc steering group have agreed to a number of things. Son of No2EU will definitely be of a federal character, which would allow each component organisation to supplement official material with their own (a policy that seemed to work well during the European election campaign). The coalition also plans to stand against cabinet ministers - but whether this will be all 20 elected full members or just a handful of high profile figures remains to be seen. The steering group has also agreed some critical core policies, and the end document will apparently have a 'socialist clause'. The coalition has also agreed that whichever party is strongest in a particular locality will lead the campaign there, but with full rights for minority components to make available their own propaganda.
A number of issues remain unresolved. First the RMT, the key union backer of No2EU in June, has yet to decide whether to formally support the new formation. This decision will be made at its January 7th executive. However, Bob Crow, the RMT's general secretary, does remain 100% committed to the project and will continue to support it come what may. The steering group is scheduled to meet on December 17th and on the agenda is a decision over the alliance's name.
There followed a short discussion over the prospects for the coalition and what guarantees exist that won't see it go the same way as other broad left formations these last 15 years - and of course there are none. But unlike the SLP, Socialist Alliance and Respect, its federalism means that whatever problems bedevil the coalition, heavy handed authoritarianism won't be one of them.
There was also a debate about the branch's decision to stand in the general election. Brother P raised some concerns he'd been having around the logistics of the campaign, and particularly the wider ramifications of it. This latter objection deserves looking at as it's something left candidates (whether son of No2EU or not) elsewhere might have to deal with. He said that Labour will easily win the seat, despite it being a priority target of the BNP. For readers not familiar with the political topography of Stoke-on-Trent, Stoke Central constituency has six of the city council's nine fascist councillors. P argued that even though experience has taught us we're just as likely to take votes away from the BNP as Labour, contesting the seat might damage the standing of the Socialist Party and the coalition in the wider labour movement - especially as sitting MP, Mark Fisher, is considered (by some) as a left winger. He advocated standing aside on this occasion.
Replying, A argued that where Fisher's record is concerned, he doesn't really have a reputation as a left in the same way MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have, nor has his attendance been noted on the various picket lines that have appeared in Stoke in recent years. Furthermore he will be standing on the New Labour manifesto. Second, there is a record of electoral support in Stoke Central that the campaign can draw from, which is something the branch didn't have when it stood in 2005. Lastly, the political period now is different. The growing fragmentation of politics and increasing abstention at elections suggests that there is a space for an alternative to mainstream politics. This might not necessarily be an explicitly socialist space - as the support for the BNP and UKIP demonstrate - but nevertheless there is potential for socialist ideas to be able to intersect the amorphous anger, bitterness and frustration the recession has been stirring. Brother R also added that standing gives us a platform at a time when most people are thinking about politics. Failure to do so can lead to our party being ignored.
The meeting reaffirmed the branch's intention to stand, whether under the son of No2EU name, or, if the coalition comes off the rails, as Socialist Alternative. Whatever happens and whenever the general election takes place, the voters of Stoke Central will have the opportunity of putting their cross by a socialist candidate.