Aftershocks of Brexit & building alliances

Jacqui Howard

Friday, 15 July 2016

The aftershocks of Brexit keep coming. The leavers leave, resignations abound, a new Prime Minister and another Labour leadership election – the second in a year. And this is just the start.

Compass wants to keep thinking, listening, learning, and to start organising more. Our Management Committee met last week (its final meeting before new elections over the summer – more info coming soon!) and some of our thoughts are below. We really want to know what you think and to keep the conversation going, so please share your thoughts and debate below.

For some, Brexit is just business as usual: the politics of being in control and telling people what to do. For all of us, it’s a wake up call. It is the unveiling of realities that we have failed to deal with – the ongoing impact of and nostalgia for Empire, the economic and social disenfranchisement of people across the UK, of these and more conditions that fuel racism, xenophobia and exclusion. None of this appeared over night, and it shows that unless we challenge the economic, social and political root causes, we are not creating real change.

For Compass, it is a moment that revealed the rotten democratic and economic system that can’t fulfil its basic job description. It has shown the need for a radical shift not only in our formal political system, but also in how we do politics. Who is listened to and who is excluded? Whose interests are being heard? Who is defining the culture, process and spaces in which politics happens? Who does politics and whom is it done to? These are all fundamental questions, and the answers should show us what we need to do and how.

Compass’ decision to shift away from being a Labour pressure group to working with all progressive parties, social movements and civil society years ago was a step in the right direction. We believed, and still do, that we need all these different forces to make change happen. We still have a long way to go.

Now, following the referendum, the idea of progressive alliances has come to life. What exactly this looks like, how it could work and how we make it happen are key questions we need to figure out together.

As a start, on 5th July, Compass brought together over a 1000 people to discuss the idea. The online recording has been watched over 20,000 times and we’ve had so many requests for local, regional and national follow-up meetings. We are a tiny team and can’t do this ourselves, and we don’t want to.

Can you run a meeting where you live? Details of how are here, and you can get in touch with us at the office and we’ll do what we can to support.

Given Labour’s crisis and the sudden solidity of the Tories around Theresa May, the only option now is a progressive alliance: an alliance that can usher in proportional representation and kick-start the process of re-democratising our nations. In places like Brighton and South West Surrey, Compass members are trying to foster active local progressive alliances. It’s a good start.

This process might need to be accelerated.  The Tories are busy polling to see if a snap election could secure a bigger majority without waiting for the boundary changes, that would still kick in and cement their position in government. There is potential of the birth of an Aaron Banks funded new UKIP, whose aim is to take 30-40 seats from Labour’s former heartland.

But the idea of a progressive alliance – or whatever we call it – has to be so much more than re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  There are two main problems: Even if the Labour Party, the biggest tent in the progressive campsite, got on board, would such a coalition beat the Tories given Labour’s current crisis?  We can only try.  But even if we win, the big question is if a coalition of old parties that are part of the current system will be able to change it.

Through all the conversation we’ve had so far and feedback we’ve gotten, what is clear is that people feel we need alliances with civil society, social movements, faith groups and more, and that we need alliances that are community and people-led. Progressive alliances must be embedded in civil society as much as anywhere, creating the pressure for, in the first instance, our parties to change. Excellent new initiatives like The Alternative edited by Lisa Nandy MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Chris Bowers that Compass has helped get off the ground are starting to prepare the foundations for a new politics.

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Vince Cable, Tommy Sheppard, Clive Lewis, Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga, John Harris

As an organization, we recognise the political urgency of gaining electoral power, and at the same time that this is inadequate. What if we could organise and prefigure what a new politics looks and feels like, a politics that is inclusive, open, visionary, hopeful, participatory and pluralist? What Compass can do is help carve out spaces, politics, conversations and actions that bridge the old politics and the new, the cities and the heartlands, red and greens, the horizontal movements and the vertical party politics. For too long we have been trying to build on an old wasteland.

As both the Green and Labour parties are having elections, who leads them is important, but what matters way beyond personality are the ideas and movements that can genuinely transform our politics. Compass will be focusing on that. Whether Labour hits the iceberg slightly to the left or the right misses the point. Splints and splinters might now be inevitable. As we watch the truly tragic farce of politics unfold and the real life impact it is having on peoples lives, what seems to be missing are politics, policies and parties that are relevant to the 21st C.

Compass aims to help build a society that tackles structural oppression at its core, that is not merely inclusive but is defined and led by people, and in which we co-exist as humans and with our environment. Sometimes the depth and the challenge of this feels unmanageable, but there is no choice but to all do everything we possibly can. At the moment, people are joining Compass in record number and getting stuck in organising locally, regionally and nationally.

If you want to shape what we do and support the independence of Compass, please consider becoming a member and contributing monthly. If you specifically want to financially support the progressive alliance work, please consider contributing to our crowdfunder. Without your support, we can’t continue putting on events like the one in London, putting together toolkits, or supporting upcoming events in Liverpool, South West Surrey & more – make sure to keep an eye on our events page for details.

Join the conversation by commenting below, and do get involved in any way you can to start building new alliances. As June Jordan says ‘we are the people we have been waiting for’.

Love and strength

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  1. Posted by Roger Woodiwiss

    A progressive alliance looks like the best and only option for getting rid of the Tories and the neo-liberal status quo. It should stand on a platform of enacting PR but it should also address and articulate a different approach to the other big issues, we all know what they are, before going back to the country

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  2. Posted by nick

    General question really.. Are compass aligned with momentum as a possible mass organisation for labour members on the anti war,anti austerity part of the labour party ?

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  3. Posted by Pauline Hammerton

    Before talking about new alliances, it would help a lot if the PLP got behind the party leader and stopped fighting to get rid of him with far more energy than they have ever fought the Tories and their policies. What is Compass doing to bring about the support of the PLP for Corbyn, a more popular leader in the country than any recent leader or candidates to replace him?

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  4. Posted by David Wright

    Like so many others I’m dismayed at recent political events. Yes, there is a need for a progressive alliance, but that in itself is not enough. There is a philosophical and spiritual malaise underpinning all of this, which enables the kind of propaganda we’ve seen to do its dirty work. Political arguments, however fine, operate on a different level and are not enough to counter it. We need to articulate values before policies. It may well take time to arrive at the right set of values but I’m convinced it will be time very well spent.

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  5. Posted by Stan Rosenthal

    You say “As both the Green and Labour parties are having elections, who leads them is important, but what matters way beyond personality are the ideas and movements that can genuinely transform our politics.””

    With respect, transforming our politics and building alliances will mean little unless we have the power to implement the’ policies resulting ffrom all this. That is why the electability of our leaders is crucial I’m afraid if what we are doing is not to be reduced to endless sound and fury signifying nothing for the lives of ordinary people.

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  6. Posted by Martin Childs

    The importance of Labour’s participation to the achievement of any Alliance is rightly stressed, but what are the steps towards this? We now know that there will be three leadership challengers and, no doubt, there will be hustings open to all. At them they should be asked on whether they support PR for elections to the Commons and what are their plans for this. Then we will know who should be supported to be Labour’s new leader. This question must be the priority, everything else follows from this. As many hustings attendees as possible should submit this question so that it can’t be avoided, sheer force of numbers means it would have to be put to the candidates.

    If we get a Labour leader who is committed to PR, then and only then can an alliance with other parties be created with perhaps some electoral pacts or arrangements.

    Labour needs to understand that PR is not only right and particularly right for our times but it is now desperately in that party’s interest too. It’s time for them to take some leadership on this otherwise everything else will founder. By the time we get another general election I think public opinion will have moved against brexit. But PR in all alliance parties manifestos would be the striking symbol of a fresh start and a new agenda. A necessary rallying call for progressives to come together around.

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  7. Posted by SamR

    I do believe a progressive alliance is the way forward although as you say building one is far from easy.

    Labour should adopt PR and split (and form an electoral pact whilst the fptp system is still in place). However, it seems the party is intent on fighting itself to the death and tribalism is strong. It’s very hard to feel optimistic in the current circumstances.

    I note Neal often writes (not in this piece but elsewhere) people want to do things themselves and not have stuff done to them. Whilst I agree that in the modern age people need space to be able to collectively change things locally. It does seem to miss the need for overarching macro policies which will never not be needed. That side of things is important too. And there are a lot of people who are so overwhelmed with things going on in their lives it will be difficult for them to take an active part – I am thinking of the most vulnerable in society in particular. Yes, some will be able to become empowered in local movements but not all. But I digress really. There will always remain some big fundamental economic policies, industrial strategy and social safety that will have to come from the top. We need vertical and horizontal.

    Hopefully initiatives like those Compass talk about will get people engaged and a progressive alliance can be formed. We may have to watch Labour explode first despite the interest in such an alliance from some Labour people.

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  8. Posted by Louis

    I think that we should clear our heads and conduct a really detailed analysis of why 17M voted to leave. To my mind the analysis to date has been inadequate and dismissive, The calls for a second referendum / a vote on the iventual agreements in Parliment are lame. The SNP’s threat of a second referendum on independents and the strident refusal to accept the NATIONAL NOT REGIONAL expression of the people on the issue of EU membership reflect badly on their concept of Democracy. We have to accept / support the out workings of Democracy especially when the results may not be what we wished, let’s roll up our sleeves and present a challenging well thought out strategy that demands the Brexit supports have to bring their A game to the table. It is only through a process such as this will we be able to ensure a positive outcome for the British Community.

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  9. Posted by Peter Allen

    To add to Caroline’s suggestion of holding open primaries to choose a PA candidate in a constituency. How might one get a vote. Perhaps by making a commitment to support the campaign and by providing a financial contribution towards the deposit and the campaign ( minimum of £1)

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  10. Posted by Reg Coles-Watson

    A) WE need to get Corbyn OUT as Labour Leader and elect a NEW Labour Leader who can WIN the next GENERAL ELECTION, We need someone who has the CHARISMA AND ENTHUSIASM as Tony Blair – Not necessary on his Political Wavelength, but someone who is powerful and can unite the Country

    We need another EU Referendum which needs to be run without all the lies of the last one and a requirement of at least HALF or 51% of the electorate voting to remain.

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  11. Posted by Reg Coles-Watson

    B) Maybe the Stronger members who really wish to form a positive attitude to running the country should amalgamate with the Lib Dems and form a new Social Democratic Party so that we can form a Powerful opposition to the Weak MAY Tory party that has elected the biggest CLOWN in the UK to run the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

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  12. Posted by clare blatchford

    Let us see if we can rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes of our hopes, and even our expectations.
    It only makes sense for Labour to join forces with the Greens and other like-minded groups/parties to build a solid alternative to the Tories. Let us all concentrate on what we have in common rather than small differences in priorities. Now is the moment of truth.
    There are a lot of people in this country opposed to the Givernment’s cynical manipulation of policies favouring the few at the expense of the many – the many who are vulnerable, largely voiceless and poor – and in the process, now being made poorer. Only a strong, vocal alternative Government-in-waiting can reverse the current tendencies of the present swing to the right that we are experiencing. let us join hands.

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  13. Posted by Jill Adams

    The big parties won’t change the current voting system because they still hope to win a majority with the corrupt first past the post system. People won’t get involved in democracy until they feel their vote counts – which in most cases at the moment it doesn’t. What can we do to change the system?

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  14. Posted by Dr Ian McLauchlin

    I scribbled the following in some desperation. I sent it to The Guardian but didn’t even get an acknowledgement. Sorry it’s long.

    Some thoughts prior to writing My Manifesto
    At the present time, and in the present circumstances, you would expect that parties and candidates would be giving some serious thought to the fundamentals of governing, especially the broader objectives and how to achieve them. Instead we see petty squabbling from individuals who think they’re up to the job, but clearly aren’t. So in some desperation, I’ve sketched the sort of manifesto that I think some should be talking about, but we’ll wait a long time for them to get round to it. So I offer the following, in no particular order.

    A fundamental starting point: It’s easy to make it seem complicated, but it’s not. It’s simple. If anyone tries to make it complicated, they have a vested interest in doing so.
    Big Business and the Rich can look after themselves. It’s a government’s job to look after those who can’t look after themselves.
    There’s a fundamental requirement and a fundamental concept: FAIRNESS
    If you want to be in charge of the country, what sort of country do you want it to be? Where do you intend it to be in 20 years time? How are you going to do it? Who will be the losers and how do you propose to help them?
    Whatever you do there will always be people who exploit the system. You can’t stop it but you can minimise it. You can stop demonising those few (to whip up anger) and you can get on with the REAL problems.
    The tabloid newspapers have too much power. How can you reign it in, while maintaining the freedoms to draw attention to injustice, corruption etc.?
    Our electoral system is broken and has been for decades. It MUST be reformed.
    The form of democracy itself needs to be re-examined (see for example:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/why-elections-are-bad-for-democracy )
    You must tell the truth.
    Forget about left politics and right politics. Take no notice of how others label it. Just formulate a vision for a better world. If it’s convincing people will vote for you.
    Don’t allow vested interests to lobby you. Why should they have that facility when the vast population doesn’t?
    We need a new politics led by people with gravitas and statesmanship who’ve given serious rational thought to the formulation of their ideas, and care about the WHOLE country, not just their own class. One that doesn’t quickly become an irrelevance but strides forward purposefully. Again, if it’s convincing, it will get votes.
    The leader needs to be ‘a safe pair of hands’ with a serious and consistent approach and a similar record.
    The class system hasn’t always existed, it was invented. Not by the lower classes. That tells you all you need to know.
    Everyone and every company should be taxed, taxed fairly, and must pay up.
    Education should be available, free, for everyone so that each can be educated to the limits of their abilities. It benefits the individual, the country and society as a whole. There should be no elite schools with entry restricted by ability to pay.
    Health care should be the best available and free at the point of use. Anything less is not civilised enough.
    The overall aim in everything should be to increase the measure of civilisation wherever and whenever possible.
    Employment and the terms of employment must be secure and fair. Unfair contracts might bring a short term advantage to employers but at the expense of society as a whole.
    Everyone should have a right to a pension sufficient to support them when they leave work. Contributions should be sufficient for that and ring-fenced.
    We need someone who understands the forces which affect people in the world as it is TODAY, not 50 years ago.
    The idea of a citizens wage for EVERYONE, providing enough to live basically on, is an attractive one. The implications need serious and unbiased examination. At the very least, it would save a lot of administrative money and personal anguish associated with the current benefits system.
    There is something seriously wrong with a country when it is happy for many of its citizens to go hungry and have nowhere to live.
    Religion and faith systems are a matter for the individual and should have no place at the heart of the state.

    I’m waiting for someone to show that they’re thinking along these lines, but I’m not holding my breath . . .

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  15. Posted by Neil Foss

    The standard of comments doesn’t auger well.
    Compass doesn’t have any power or prospect of having. I therefore don’t see anything but talk happening. Of course the bit part actors like the Libdems and Greens want PR but it aint happening any time soon. Thank Clegg. He blew it. And coalition governments. People think stable government only now happens with one party power.
    UKIP may be the only chance of driving a wedge between the Tories and Libdems and they are seen as something different because Farage answered questions rather than the grey waffling from the other main parties.

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  16. Posted by Matthew

    Still no mention of oikophobia. It’s one sided views like this that caused the division in the first place. You are not going to help anyone by approaching things in exactly the same way as previously tried and failed attempts.

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  17. Posted by jill-price@tiscali.co.uk

    My friends and l are, of course saddened at the referendum result, but feel more disturbed at the attack on Jeremy Corbyn and the undemocratic and sneaky way the supporters fee was increased and the way they are trying to block new members from voting assuming they will vote for Corbyn. It is scandalous and undemocratic.But where are the voices condemning it?

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  18. Posted by Paul Knott

    There is a huge opportunity here for a “progressive alliance”, despite (or perhaps even because of) the madness and chaos of the past few months, based on the 48% who voted remain (and the significant numbers of the 52% who have already realised they were sold a dud). One of the biggest dividing lines in modern politics is between those who back openness & tolerance and those who fear it.
    Better still, the “fear” side consists mainly of an unsustainable, mutually exclusive combination of some who have a lot and fear losing it and many who have very little and want to point that out. The latter group would be very open to a progressive case that plausibly promises to improve their prospects. Dr McLauchlin’s suggestions on this thread would be a good starting point.
    Leaders are far from everything but our media and political environment is still such that the chances of success would be much greater if these ideas are expressed by an optimistic and convincing front man or woman. Whether we agree with his policies or not (I do, with a lot of them, as it happens), Jeremy Corbyn is not that person. We are deluding ourselves if we think he is “popular” in the country as a whole. He is not and the next election (which might still come much sooner than scheduled) will prove it, if things are allowed to go on that long. We cannot do much without getting elected – including changing how our representatives are elected. The choice for the Corbyn- supporting left is, as so often in a democracy, a choice between getting some of what they want, as part of bigger progressive alliance, or nothing at all.

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  19. Posted by su maddock

    A few of us are organising for a meeting in Dartington soon on building an Alliance in South Devon. Planning mtg on 5th August.
    in South Devon-

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