Cat Smith - Compass shouldn't change its membership rules
The Compass Youth Committee has voted to support keeping the current membership arrangements within Compass. I am confident that we made the correct decision in deciding this. We felt the benefits of the current arrangements outweighed any benefits of opening up voting to members of other political parties. Compass's strength has been to provide a coherent voice for the mainstream of the party membership. We therefore believe it should continue to focus its work on building new ideas within the Labour Party.
Membership of Compass is open to all but voting restricted to Labour Party members or people eligible to be members of the Labour Party. It was founded as an organisation to give new direction to Labour. I joined it a few years ago when I saw the space it was opening up on the centre-left of the Labour Party. It was good to have a campaign which, although specifically focused on Labour, was not afraid to have dialogue with other political parties in areas where there was some cross-over. No one party can ever have the monopoly of good ideas. We should always be open to working with all others, but our priority is to ensure the Labour Party becomes the changed party we have all worked for.
But Ed Miliband's election represents a shift in the policy of the Labour Party - we welcome his statement that the war in Iraq was wrong, and his wiping clean of our policy slate. Ed's leadership campaign gave voice to, and has helped popularise further, many of the issues Compass has campaigned on in recent years. We are excited to be involved with the Labour Party policy making and we are finding support for our ‘Compass-style' politics around the Living Wage, a Graduate Tax and the building of the good society. Now is the time to support and campaign with Labour. Since May thousands of young people have joined Labour. As young voters we have been particularly let down by the betrayal by the Liberal Democrats on top-up-fees, and many of us never had any faith in the Tories anyway. So those of us involved in Party politics have seen Labour as the sole mainstream progressive party left in British politics. To open our membership to members of other parties would mean Compass loses credibility within Labour. It will weaken Compass' ability to play a full role in internal elections, policy debates and much more and would inevitability see Compass failing to support Labour in many local and council elections.
Regardless of attempts to rewrite history now Compass is seen as a Labour Party orientated organisation because of the actions we have taken. We were right to ballot our members and support Ed Miliband in the Labour Party leadership, and it is right that Compass staff members speak to local Labour Parties up and down the country. All these activities are a great way of promoting our organisation's slogan; "direction for the democratic left". Compass has already played an influential and useful role within Labour from Jon Cruddas's bid for Deputy Leadership in 2007 to the recent NEC elections, and party conference decisions. We have built up too much to throw away.
Compass is a political organisation. It is right that we should promote our politics and support the Party which most reflects our democratic left beliefs. That party is the Labour Party and they have invited us to participate in policy and campaigning. Any move to change our internal membership now would be seen as a hostile move towards Labour and Ed Miliband. The Lib Dems, hooked to a Thatcherite government, have lost the support of these people and rightly so. They are helping the Conservatives carry out ideological attacks on the most vulnerable in our society. We should look to the new activists - sixth formers, university students, community campaigners, trades unionists and progressives - the 50,000 new Labour members and the millions still to engage in party politics to join in our work. They have joined Labour as the only mainstream progressive party in British politics. They share our politics and they want Labour to represent and campaign for them. Labour has moved towards Compass's values and we must ensure Labour challenges the Tory agenda - Compass has a key role to play in making that happen.
Cat Smith is Chair of Compass Youth
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