This Compass document is written in the tone of mediation and optimism that has characterised Compass work, and has been a major element of its attraction and effectiveness. While I still value Compass and its principles, I’m afraid my offering is no longer in this vein.
The context: the pace of change in the last 9 months is such that it has felt like a decade. One by one the threads that have secured the fabric of our good society for many decades are being pulled apart. The only questions remaining are how long it will take for it to disintegrate completely, and what that will look like. One thing that is sure about that future is that many people will fall be the wayside unless we step up to offer support at community level.
The exciting political debates that the Compass document refers to as the context are so distant from this reality. The press continue to peddle their narratives, and the shock and awe that is pending in our communities is not news. The progress of TTIP will doubtless put the finishing touches to the destruction of our good society this coming year is nowhere to be seen in the news.
The biggest public debate of the year will be about in or out of Europe, while the EU negotiate away our rights in their trade deal with US. At the same time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stand poised to down-grade our currency and impose their neoliberal policies on us by right – as if as an independent country, we should dare not to ‘participate’ in the global economy and not play by their rules.
If this sounds dramatic, look at the reality in the north and indeed in some southern counties. Rate Support Grant is disappearing and with it the services that we’ve all taken for granted: libraries; museums; subsidised buses for rural areas the private sector won’t touch; some transport for disabled people etc. In fact anything that is not a statutory duty.
It might be possible to develop a community alternative for many of these services, but not for all of them at once. The Tory race to demolish the good society relies on speed to thwart resistance as well as just plain greed to get their hands on the pickings.
Councils themselves are teetering on the brink of the precipice, and as they inevitably fall the private sector will catch the rich pickings: social care, children’s services, schools, care homes, and of course the NHS – all being prepared for the invasion of the unregulated private corporation. As for those services that were privatised by Thatcher and her followers long ago – well at least there has been some regulation since those days, but take that away and the effects will be dramatic. You can find the evidence around the world.
For the north, those upstarts that the ruling class can’t wait to trample on, the coup de grace will be shale gas – an industry which will destroy our agriculture, our tourist industry and our water supply. It will become a place only fit for southerners to visit on fleeting visits on HS2!
Those who are already fearing for the future, and those many more who will be its first victims, will ask ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ and if there are no answers from the left they will take their lead from the gutter press.
This is the context for the development of a Compass agenda from where I’m standing. It must be an agenda to expose the lies of the ruling class, to reinterpret events from a point of view other than that of the elite and to make this narrative heard.
The above may sound negative, compared to the optimism of the Compass document. However, if Compass are realistic in their assessment of the context, then their role in exposing and explaining the sleight of hand of the government, in explaining the mechanisms that make this possible and building a consensus on how to achieve system change, can help not only to halt that decline but to make such an attack on the good society much less possible in the future.
To share your thoughts about Compass’ strategy for 2016-18 please read our draft and follow the link on the last page.