Compass Manchester recently hosted our first ever event, about getting ready for the next election. We’d hoped for an easy topic to start with, but then Boris Johnson prorogued parliament and so we decided we had to do something.
Our aim was to help people consider how they could make a difference during, and leading up to, the next election. And to think about what we as Compass Manchester could add.
We brought together a panel from across the more progressive parties: Chris Ogden, co-chair of Manchester Greens, Kate Green MP from Labour, and April Preston a local Lib Dem candidate, plus Tabitha Morton chief executive of More United (and a member of the Women’s Equality Party). Frances Foley, who previously worked for Compass and is now working on the campaign for a Citizens’ Convention on UK Democracy, was our chair.
What We Learnt
After each panellist gave an opening statement, we split into groups to talk further about the topic, before coming back for some final questions and answers. In one group Tabitha led a workshop on effective campaigning. More United work by directing funding and volunteers towards candidates that are willing to work across parties, and then running cross party campaigns that they encourage these candidates to work on once in power. They have set out a broad set of principles that they are striving for, and at the last election helped candidates from across 5 political parties. She gave practical tips like the importance of phoning rather than emailing volunteers and following up quickly after any actions.
The other group looked directly at what we could do in Manchester to make a difference. Two main points stood out. Firstly, helping parties to work together rather than get in each other’s way. This isn’t really relevant in central Manchester, but there are places in Greater Manchester where this could make a big difference. Frances shared her experiences from the last election, including:
- The importance of doing this on a local basis
- The need to bring party members together, not just candidates and organisers, if you’re going to get buy-in
- And focussing on where you agree rather than getting into horse-trading.
The book ‘All Together Now’ about how Compass helped grow cooperation at the last election was mentioned as a great way of finding out more about this. The second main point was about bringing in those who are outside, and often put off by, party politics. This is something that an organisation like Compass could be well placed for.
One of the points that stood out from our panel was Chris Ogden’s observation that local parties are starting from a position of opposition, so there’s a need to create spaces that overcome this if people are to work more constructively. There wasn’t universal support for close cooperation, Kate Green was adamant that her identity as a Labour member, had to come first. Nonetheless all panellists were united in their fear about the move towards the far right, the desire to improve our politics, and a feeling that we have to approach things differently in the face of these urgent challenges.
Our Journey Continues
We, at Compass Manchester, are a group of five volunteers from different parties and no party. We want to build a constructive, non-tribal space and create events that:
- Bring people together from different progressive parties and none
- Foster collaboration
- Share knowledge and ideas
- Build practical action
- Show a different way of doing politics.
We’ve been meeting regularly to plan our activities and welcome more pairs of hands – particularly as we now have lots more ideas to get started on.
If you want to find out more we are CompassMCR on Facebook @CompassMCR on Twitter, or can be emailed on: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in the local area you can also stay in touch by signing up to the Compass mailing list. We look forward to hearing from you.