On Saturday 24th March, Calderdale launched its first ever Compass group. A report from its organisers (Jane Speller, Elaine Hey and Finn Jensen)
The launch event proved to be everything we hoped it would be: a fantastic turnout, inspiring speeches from a great lineup of speakers and, most of all, such a heartening spirit of friendship and co-operation in the room from people of all different parties and none. The consensus seemed to be that people were more than interested in becoming involved in Compass in our area going forward.
We need to work together, not against each other, by focusing on things on which we are united, while maintaining our distinct identities. Our hard-won social gains, rights, welfare state and environmental protections are under threat by a hard right government who want to use Brexit to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven.The only way we can fight this and preserve the environment and basic rights for future generations is by putting our differences and past grievances aside and working together.
Countries with more proportional voting systems have many more left-leaning, progressive governments, while countries with first past the post tend to have more right-wing governments as a result of vote splitting among centre left parties. Social gains introduced by progressive governments are all too often reversed during long periods of right wing rule. This is why we believe democratic reforms will play an essential role in creating a society which really does work for the many, not just the few. In the long term, not just for one term.
There is a democratic deficit in this country. The first past the post system excludes millions of voters from any influence in elections; minority views in each constituency or ward do not get any representation. Only some form of proportional representation gives a true picture of what the voters really want. With first past the post, millions of people are made to choose between voting for what they believe in or voting tactically to avoid the worst candidate getting elected.
There is another word for PR: democracy. It is only when you give people meaningful influence in shaping their future that more people get involved in political life, that you will reduce the cynicism that exists about politics today.
There are of course many other reforms we need to make to get a more democratic system: lowering the voting age to 16, reforming the House of the Lords, tightening the rules around party funding, introducing the ability to recall your MP instead of having to wait to the next general election, stopping MPs having other paid jobs, etc.
Caroline Lucas and Green party members have reached out to other parties to work together to defeat the hard right, and Jeremy Corbyn’s transformative, socialist manifesto has inspired them to give us their support in this way. The Liberal Democrats have often voted with Labour on key issues, against the government.
Lisa Nandy spoke of how working with progressive MPs from other parties in Parliament is so much more effective than working alone. Our group would like to see this solidarity reflected more in public and replicated at the local level and the grassroots. We aim to build bridges by working together on campaigns we all support, and to resolve our differences through dialogue and building trust.
We would like to thank Frances, Klina and Lisa for travelling to take part in the event and making it such a great success. We also want to thank all who attended for their interest and enthusiasm for change in the way we do politics – we had a good mix of Labour, Green party and Lib Dem Members and those with no political affiliation. We have also had a lot of interest from people who were unable to attend out event.
Saturday proved a very promising start, lots of interest and enthusiasm for a change in the way we do politics. We would like to hold many more public meetings, debates, social events as well as running ongoing cross-party campaigns, and we hope this will lead to the formation of a network of groups across West Yorkshire and beyond.
If you’d like to get involved in the Calderdale Compass group or in building Compass groups across the North, we’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Calderdale Compass FB