IN THE BEGINNING
Compass started out like many good organisations do – with a letter in the Guardian. It’s been a journey to find a new politics ever since.
We were founded as a Labour Party ideas pressure group that was democratically run by our members. Compass members had to be Labour Party members (or not be members of any other party). We felt that New Labour was failing to make the most of a historic opportunity to fundamentally transform the UK into a much more equal, democratic and sustainable society.
In the first 5 years of Compass we created a vision of a good society and acted as a hub for the democratic left within the Labour Party, agitating for it to become more radical. We won some concrete battles; stopping the 90 day detention without trial, halting the privatisation of Royal Mail and persuading the Government to levy a windfall tax on banker’s bonuses.
Despite these successes we came to realise that a reformed Labour Party was still necessary but not sufficient to deliver a Good Society. We needed to work with people from other parties and from different organisations to really change our world. Why let in people on the right of Labour and keep out those from other parties that we agreed with? Values are more important than a party card! After many deliberations, debates and consultations Compass members voted to open up full membership to members of other political parties and from none. It’s made us so much richer, hearing every progressive voice; from Labour, social liberals, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the WEP and more.
This decision was a big part of our history and has shaped who we are today; we strongly believe that while Labour remains fundamentally important, no single issue or party can usher in a Good Society alone.
Today we look to where the real energy and creativity is. We see emerging collaborative practice bubbling up in civil society, the social economy and in the local state. Our task now is to join all this up, to amplify, aggregate and accelerate the desire and demand for participation we all want and all feel in our increasingly networked society.
In 2023, we celebrated 20 years of Compass. To commemorate this milestone, we published a pamphlet chronicling our last two decades of thinking and action. You can read it in full here.