Post-election statement: Leaving the 20th century

The weekend’s election results reveal politics in a state of flux – change is in the air and we need to understand why and what we do about it.

On the one hand the incredible rise of UKIP, echoed across much of the continent in a surge of support for populist anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties, is a grim omen of things to come. A party with some very unsettling messages, and even more unsettling people, has just won a nationwide election. But on the other hand, their dramatic rise in support jolts us into confronting these seismic shifts taking place. Moreover, at the very time the old politics is disintegrating, new ways of being and doing are opening up that give us hope. UKIP maybe leading the headlines, but there’s much more going on in politics beyond the main parties.

We can read off the usual electoral responses – despite the UKIP surge the truth remains that only David Cameron or Ed Miliband can be Prime Minister after the next election. So despite all the turmoil, will anything really change? If the endless game of Westminster top-trumps is all you care about, then no. But that’s not all we care about. We want to a build a good society that is much more equal, sustainable and democratic and this cannot be done on the basis of mainstream politics as usual.   

According to the Ashcroft polls of key marginal seats, Labour is still on course to win the most seats next May. However, no one can guess the effect of an up-turn in the economy (however fragile and uneven its basis) and the inevitable thunderous campaigns of the Tories and the tabloids. And we can’t be sure that as one leading MP said at the weekend, Labour orientated voters will ‘return to the fold’. People are not sheep!

This sense of longing for a return to politics and economics as normal pervades Westminster and the London media as they feed off each other in ever decreasing circles – whilst at this very moment we are going through a revolution in the way both economics and politics work.

The very first response to an article by John Harris at the weekend said “desperate people will seek desperate solutions”. So many people feel anxious and insecure and with some justification, they don’t believe the promise of a political class who say they can bring back social justice, security or some semblance of control over their lives and world.

This is because the 20th century of organised capital and organised labour is unraveling fast into a 21st century world of networks built on both speed of light information and decisions. The world is fragmenting and the foundations of the past – the solidity of jobs, place and identity are melting away. This is the world in which UKIP thrives because they at least speak to people’s fears, albeit with a backward-looking, distorted and exclusionary analysis. The answer is most certainly not to try to out-tough UKIP on immigration.  The answer lies in being confident in our values and building a positive case for immigration that is more human than – ‘it benefits the economy’. Instead, together we need to develop a positive case for immigration which builds towards a shared progressive European future.  

On the left so far, the response has revolved around the politics of a better yesterday; an attempt to reconstruct the world based on the same centralised and top down tool set used after 1945. It means well, but one more heave is simply a desperate recipe for exhaustion, not the basis to claim a fast moving future.

Despite being local and European elections, Labour at least, had little to say about their vision for either. But there is so much opportunity at both levels of politics, just take two examples – a financial transaction tax levied across Europe would do something about banks that are still too big to fail. Equally, if councils could raise local taxes they could build the platforms for community renewable energy schemes that would push back against climate change. But the risks for the politicians in the Westminster bubble, even for such modest moves, are too big to take.

So even if Labour ‘wins’ next May it is building a cage for its own victory. You cannot hope to build one nation, let alone responsible capitalism on (at best) 35% of the vote, or 1 in 4 voters on a 60% turnout, especially when all of us on the left have yet to confront the huge intellectual and organisational challenges we face to build a good society. Yes, Labour has some bold policies but they have a way to go in convincing people they are deliverable and a part of a wider vision.

This is not just a problem for the left in the UK, but across Europe where social democrats are pegged back by the difficulty they have letting go of their top down, command and control past or addressing the public anger against the banks and austerity.

But what is pulling us apart and disorientating us can all help us make sense of the world and re-orientate ourselves.

A new economy is waiting to be fashioned via companies serious about climate change, through peer to peer lending schemes to really challenge the big banks, through crowd sourced investment like Kick-starter and sharing platforms in which we borrow and lend big ticket items we don’t often use. A myriad collaborative projects made possible by new technology, democratic initiatives like Abundance and big ideas like B Corps that change the very social nature of companies.

The same trends towards collaboration, self-organisation and social networks will infuse our politics. From 38 Degrees to Frome’s Flatpack democracy, from the great success of Hope Not Hate in defeating the BNP to Transition Towns, we need a citizen led politics of everyday democracy not just a vote once every five years.

This fragmentation of voters and parties means we urgently need to switch to proportional representation. It looks increasingly unlikely we are ever going back to a state of affairs where one party gets over 40% of the vote.  A system designed for two party politics cannot contain multi-party politics which freezes out smaller parties, like the Greens in particular. When the voting system is changed so will an adversarial politics of small differences.

But political leadership still matters, as evidenced by Theresa May’s recent electrifying speech to the Police Federation. Ed Miliband’s intervention on Murdoch was of this vein. The task is to link up the new horizontal politics to a more vertical, but open, party politics as Compass has suggested in The Bridge and in our work on Open Tribes.
While we cannot expect a sea change in politics in the next 12 months, all power should go to the elbow of Jon Cruddas running Labour’s policy review and others of all parties and none, preparing and seeding the ground for the transformative changes in attitudes, behavior, policy and organisation that are going to be needed.

The election result makes the case for a new politics overwhelming. The future can neither be denied nor avoided. The world is changing – we either bend it to us, to build a good society, or we will be forced to bend to it. Which way it goes depends on our ability to change and on how good we are at politics – our wit, wisdom, insight, good faith and perseverance.  Now more than ever, we cannot say we weren’t warned.

71 thoughts on “Post-election statement: Leaving the 20th century

  1. OK but I find this all somewhat underwhelming. So the answer to capitalist crises is to invest in nice firms? Unless we back policies that hit at the bases of capitalism (Tobin Tax may be one, I grant you) and set a trend of radical change, then rather weak ideas will not be understood by the large numbers who voted UKIP

  2. Yes, the Euro election result makes the case for a new politics overwhelming but unless this case is conveyed more vigorously and on a much greater scale than hitherto I’m afraid we will be returning to the old politics of the 1930s.

  3. Spot on. I am 85. We believed in something better after the war. Even the Tories (reluctantly). I was in the North Paddington Labour Party – Polling District Treasurer !! Had to collection the sixpences every month from my members.

    Not just nostalgia – but the party has a slowly changed over the years. There is nothing wrong in being idealistic and working for a better world.

  4. Of course, the vote was a massive wake-up call for all polirticians who have taken our relationship with Europe and, indeed, our whole political system for granted. But, at the same time, we mustn’t forget that in reality, only 27% of voters in a 35% turnout actually voted for UKIP which is justover 4 million people out of an electorate of 46 million. This is not to deny that there is a massive disenchantment with the present state of affairs but to stress that there is everything to play for.

    One of the tragedies is that successive governmentsincluding, of course, Labour governments have failed to explain to our electorate that Europe is more than a simple matter of trade agreements: it began as an extraordinary attempt to bring a continent that had continually sought to destroy itself through virtually perpetual warfare into a stable and secure and, above all, democratic community of nations. Not only did they fail to provide any sense of vision but they spent more time claiming to defend Britain from Europe than persuading people to use the EU as a vehicle for serious political change..

    The ‘it should be just a free trade area’ argument is dangerous nonsense: economic strength based on free trade without parliamentary oversight would mean that there would be no way of stopping the EU from turning into a corporate playground with no protection for ordinary working people.

    Thirdly, take away free movement of people and we may be rid of the odd self-serving migrant but, far more critically, we should also lose essential workers and skills at all level of society. Not only would the NHS collapse but why should our European neighbours accept all the elderly Brits who have migrated to the warmth.

    No-one is offering a satisfying vision of an evolving Europe, Nick Clegg’s suggestion in the debate with Farage that it would be the same in 10 years is no vision. In 10 years, Europe must become a thriving, open, generous society that actually cares about all its citizens. There must be reform based upon the hopes and desires of ordinary people and that means not just providing propaganda but opening the debate as to what they want from Europe. But this is a two way process: it isn’t enough to complain – we need new ideas and a genuine commitment from those who want to see things improve.

    Certainly, the way the institutions operate and interact with national governments need examination with a view to reform but this can only be done if we are committed to working with our European partners not shouting insults (while taking the money).

    There is a real danger, however, that UKIP will get a foothold in British politics and we shall see the re-establishment of not just extreme economically reactionary policies but also extreme social reaction. There is no question but that Farage articulates real fears especially among those far removed from the vibrant, multi-cultural Britain many of our towns and cities are becoming. And, tragically and ironically, he has also benefIted from the economic collapse created by city slickers just like him.

    Ed Miliband clearly recognises the critical importance of the EU to the British economy but it is also crucial that he begins to capture the imagination of young people especially by outlining what we could achieve collectively in Europe if approached reform with a view to bulding a proserpus but also fair, just and generous Union.

  5. The old world order has not disappeared, Hitler by another guise has just “won” and election!
    But somehow the left of Europe has lost it’s way and no longer appeals to the mass voter, essentially true here in Britain.
    MP’s across all parties, except apparently UKIP, draw their candidates from a very small pool, this translates into a very small vision for how the country should run, especially so that when the middle class run anything, they always err on the side of caution.
    Socialism only thrived when it offered the people a BETTER way, a way that they could believe in.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling voters that they can have a greater share, that their children can reach the heights that they aspire to, that hard work can lead to a better life and bring comforts that only the wealthy currently enjoy. If people don’t get a vision then there is little reason to go out and vote, and if they do then it’s very likely that they could vote for the party that continually gets the headlines from a guy with a pint in his hand.
    Safe suited middle class leaders who have little idea of how the majority of us live, really cannot preach about rebuilding and sharing, when they patently don’t mean it.
    For the left to mount a serious bid for genuine government something has to change, my first start would be to go for real devolution right across the country, here in Wales even with “safe as houses” leader, the Labour party does offer a different vision of how Britain can be.

  6. This all underestimates the challenge. The people who vote UKIP are not going to engage in community politics or be persuaded by a To in tax. I know several supporters and have spoken to them. They fear that “them” are threatening them. They expect government to give them goods and services not to regulate a society where each contributes the weak are looked after, and we think internationally not nationalistically. A big ask and and refocus sing of identity from early life. I too am old and believe idealism is worth struggling for. I am not optimistic though. Nietzsche wins I fear

  7. Whilst I disagree with the tenet of UKIPs policy, I do think that they have touched a nerve when it comes to the European Project. I think a lot of people in this country have seen what has happened in Southern Europe and in Ireland since the banking crisis,and they don’t like either what happened and, more to the point, the way that it happened. This has caused people to question the whole European Project, the left should have a properly thought out answer to the questions being asked that goes further than just business as usual, and doesn’t include the kind of anti immigrant poison currently being pushed by far too many otherwise intelligent people.

  8. This occurrence is due to the overruling of Democracy by first the Conservatives in taking away our National Independence by enrolling us into the European Union without a Referendum .
    The Labour party by signing a further amendment to the treaty without carrying out the promised manifesto .
    Followed by the Conservatives again breaking what was seen as a promise of a vote this term .
    I am angry , and I am pro Europe .
    How are people who have lost all chance of work or there jobs because of an influx of European workers , supposed to feel ?
    Our new arrivals are often hardworking and skilled , but often willing to work for a lower wage or poorer conditions and no union representation .
    We need a referendum ..
    We need to ensure that all of our new European workers benefit from the same rights and income as the rest of us ,otherwise is racism, and this is the present situation ..
    We need to ensure that our European friends are made welcome and do not suffer a racist backlash .
    A referendum on withdrawel and reversion to the terms of the Common Market will do this .
    I personally would vote for full Eu membership I believe , but I want the right to vote .
    We also need Honesty from Politicians and an adherence by the Labour Party to its own rules ,but I expect Pigs to achieve flight before that happens .
    John Knowles

  9. My thoughts are these:
    We need to change the way we do politics and the Conservatives, Labour and Lib-Dems are not doing this.
    David Cameron is keen to change the way the EU operates, (though I do not hear him talk of making it more democratic) but ignores the need to change the way our own democracy operates.
    Ed Miliband has begun changing the way the Labour party relates to the unions, but in the bigger scene that is only a small change.
    Nick Clegg once had some ideas, but has failed to achieve much, except that of trying to make people accept coalition governments.
    We need to be more accepting indeed of coalitions, but ones in which each participant feels free to express views before decisions are made, so that the identity of the individual parties is not obscured.. We need reform of the house of Lords and reform of the voting system and transfer of resources away from Whitehall to Local Government. We need local government in particular to mean more and have the tax raising powers to encourage greater public participation, with Town Hall debates televised.
    We need greater democratic ways within the parties, so that policy is properly debated and decided. The Lib-Dems still have this, though it has been less effective since the party went into the coalition and due to the attitude of their leader.
    We need a proper lobbying act which gives proper balance between the influence of big wealthy private organisations and the influence of general public campaigning groups; the present situation is undemocratic.

  10. I find it very disgraceful that politicians who condemn ukip really miss the point, if a majority of the people want this change, when they condemn ukip there are basically saying to the voters’ YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT’.

    The truth is totally the opposite, the politicians ‘DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT’.

    Is ukip the answer, i really don’t know, but after 100 years of Tory, Labour and the ever changeable third party, i do know one thing, NONE OF THEM THREE are THE ANSWER.

    How, after 100 years of these three ‘ruling’, can so few own so much at the expense of so many.

    We , the voters, do not need to be told by the likes of liars like cameron, milliband, clegg and blair that the ukip party are evil ,they are no different to the rest, they just presented their case for a non europe better.!!!!!!!

    The Politics of this country needs a good kick up the proverbial, lets hope this is the start.

  11. Sad to say but what is worrying the ConLabLibDemfederation is not the failure of their policies but the chance an even gredier group will take their place.

  12. “You cannot hope to build one nation, let alone responsible capitalism on (at best) 35% of the vote”

    Actually, under capitalism (irremediably, an economic system based on allowing a powerful minority to exploit the disempowered majority) you can’t ever have anything approaching a unified society in any case. And as for responsible capitalism, what an oxymoron that is. The only thing that capitalists accept responsibility for is lining their own pockets at others’ expense.

    But that’s social democracy for you: the politics of spreading delusions while collaborating with the wealthy and influential whose wealth and privileges are held a priori to be inviolable. Oh no, we couldn’t possibly shut down public schools or tax havens, or redistribute wealth, or introduce a human right outlawing discrimination against members of disadvantaged social classes. The media (which we have never made any attempt to democratise, because the last thing we want is to risk empowering our critics on the socialist left) would have a fit.

  13. Err … this means we should be talking about Europe (e.g. proposed US free-trade treaty that will dismantle governmental regulation) not the same old Compass new democracy needed etc etc

  14. I hate much of what UKIP stands for, but their anti-EU and anti-establishment line resonates with me. I deplore the way our national sovereignty has secretly leached away to Brussels without any reference to the people, or the House of Commons, which is no longer sovereign.
    Our ruling elite has failed us spectacularly. We are now ruled by a self-serving plutocracy, in thrall to global finance and multinational business. Neo-liberal economics still rules the world, producing the steadily increasing gap between rich and poor.
    Nigel Farrage is the ONLY politician currently talking about this. His success is a commentary on the devastating failure of the main political parties to recognise what’s going on, to articulate it and to put forward policies to deal with it. All we get from Cameron/Milliband/Clegg is empty, meaningless rhetoric.
    I don’t like him, but Farrage deserves the success he’s currently enjoying. Nature abhors a vacuum and British politics is an intellectual vacuum which Farrage has filled like a whirlwind.

  15. Oh what a sorry state of affairs! – How long will it take before all those bureaucrats and out of touch politicos in the EU realise that the poor sods who are paying for it all have lost patience and any hope that there will be any common sense applied any time soon. Everything I buy cost me 20% more so that those silly buggers in Brussels can sit around chewing the cud, making up stupid rules and making my life more difficult than it needs to be! The EU is a burden on the ordinary man not a help. Get rid of it!

  16. Spot on. A new economic order is in the making. Citizen protest is some way behind. Accords with research and writing I am doing for a new book to be published soon about a non-economic way of valuing human beings.

  17. What I find most frightening is that as a society we are ignoring the political process. Whilst the politicians fight amongst themselves, the”corporations” grow more and more powerful and the rich become richer and richer. How long will it be before the”corporations rule and national governments have to capitulate? At least Ed Miliband has taken on the energy companies and he appears to want tackle the financial system. I want a Labour Government that takes the fight to the oppressive corporate world. It would give me hope and a belief that the ordinary person can influence the future if Labour was more bullish about national governance and stated that they would change employment practices, be proactive about climate change and energy systems, devolve power to local government etc. At present the “little person” feels powerless and needs a Government that is clear on protecting those who are not rich and powerful.

  18. Bang-on! We do need a new politics, one not subservient to the big corporations. banks and media tycoons, one which reaches “ordinary” people, and empowers them. A long road but the only one we can reasonably travel!.Let’s do it.

  19. Compass has the vision, the time for democratic and political change is now. Is the democratic blueprint proposed by a key element in restoring the electorates faith in our failing democracy ?

  20. I agree with Richard Symonds. Letting a thousand flowers bloom through non-hierarchical politics to create an alternative “good society” is all very well, but the capitalist tiger is still out there and as vicious as ever however often it may change its stripes. Only something equally big and nasty can tame it. The tragedy of the EU is that it should be a shield against tiger capitalism but instead has become its accomplice. UKIP supporters are dupes, insofar as if they got what they’re asking for, they would be even more screwed outside the EU than they are now inside it, but their anger is genuine and justified. Radical EU reform has got to be a major project for the left.

  21. UKIP offers a simple vision to voters: “We are fed up of being told what to do by unelected bureaucrats in the EU that we are paying for with our taxes”. There is want and need here on our doorstep that taxes should mitigate. Instead the poor and sick are driven into greater poverty whilst the rich get richer. Westminster politicians are curiously detached from the rest of the country as seen in the election results for UKIP. However, Compass must not dismiss the top down approach as a means of challenging the existing power structure of bailed out banks and tax avoidance by the big corporations. Nationalisation of privatised monopolies would bring profits to support the poor and improve services on which we all rely. East Coast Railways and The Post Office are evidence of that. Local groupings and networks cannot provide the apprenticeships and skills for the future, cannot create enough jobs to give the unemployed a chance to contribute to society, nor challenge the monopolies-only a committed government can use the levers of power to improve life for the majority of citizens. Will local activists cancel Trident expenditure? Will networks of committed individuals put people to work? Talk to those who have worked in job creation and see how their time is used on fund raising rather than on providing the services they know people actually need. Will Compass be at the 23rd June Peoples’ Assembly march to listen to what others think is a vision and a strategy for challenging bankers’ austerity and improving life for the rest of us?

  22. I still dont feel you have really grasped how central to the political shift is the fact that it is rooted in the concerns of the vast majority about the increasing pace of immigration and about their own increasing economic insecurity. Yet the Westminster response to UKIP’s success seem to be that it is just a protest party and all that is required is to explain existing polices more effectively, drop the political geek-speak and imitate Farage’s popular blokeyness. If the Westminster parties cling to that deluded comfort blanket, they are in for a nasty shock come next year’s election.

    So what should be done to tackle the twin concerns of immigration and economic insecurity. The answer has to be to reconsider the whole question of open borders, but not just to people but also to money and goods. Our openness to capital flows is now seeing Europe’s rich piling into London’s property market and helping ensure ‘generation rent’ will never achieve any housing security. The relocation of UK companies to lower tax and/or wage countries also continues apace.

    Clearly no one country can buck the market on its own. But Labour could start a debate about the issue of the free flow of people, goods and money with its sister parties in the EU, given its desire to replace failing markets with responsible capitalism. The reform the left should be calling for is for the emergence of a cooperative grouping of countries prioritising the protection and rebuilding of local economies. This could provide a secure future for Europeans and turn the EU from an anathema to a positive answer to voters concerns. Such a shift is now far more likely given that the extreme right will be breathing down the necks of parties all over Europe forcing them to consider alternatives to help ensure their political survival. Such an approach could increase the left’s political support, provide a more secure and civilised future and be seen as a beacon of hope for a world itself suffering rising economic insecurity, inequality and political upheaval.
    Colin Hines
    Author ‘Progressive Protectionism’ (to be published July 2014)

  23. I don’t see why we can’t support local democracy and financial transaction taxes while at the same time harking back to the better times of post-1945 socialism and the quality left-wing policies introduced by Labour governments in the following decades. The two visions don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

  24. I’m pro-Europe but was sorely tempted to vote UKIP in the Euro elections as a way of kicking Cons and Labour. How dare they think “democracy” is voting for one or the other? Labour will regret opposing PR when they loose their many Scottish MPs. I’ve actively campaigned for reform for over 25 years. Too many have not listened to reason, so let’s be unreasonable!

  25. “The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it” Marx, 1847.

    There is a reason why Osbourne and Johnson are so in favour of open borders migration: It depresses wages, makes workplace organising more difficult and creates unemployment. Immigration to this country has nearly always taken place under Right wing governments – because they understand these basic economic truths but speak with fork tongues about it.

    Well I stand four square against racism, I am not prepared to collaborate with the globalisers. I do not believe in the free movement of labour AT THE SAME TIME AS the free movement of capital. It’s got to be one or the other.

    Those who say, ‘we can reform the labour market’ are whistling in the wind. The free movement of labour in Eastern Europe means that Hard Right neoliberal governments don’t need to provide welfare states because they can tell people to emigrate. And when the Tories are re-elected, ‘on yer bike’ will turn into ‘get on a plane’ – and I can’t see many liberals or lefties standing up against it because many, out of guilt, have bought into the idea that, native or migrant, we must all compete.

    It’s a disaster.

    Africans are forced to come here because their nations have been hollowed out by the same corporations driving economic policy here. Meanwhile our unemployed are demonised and forced into penury.

    It’s insane.

    The left and many progressives have alienated countless people by boiling this issue down to one of anti-racism and cosmopolitan high mindedness.

    They are collaborating with forces they simply don’t understand.

    1. I would question two points you made. The research shows immigration does not drive down wages or create unemployment, quite the opposite, and even if it did surely it would be the bosses paying the low wages to blame? But on a larger point this kind of line betrays our internationalism and solidarity. It’s no doubt true the globalised world is causing great insecurity for many, but I think if we are calling out anything it should be neo-liberalism and the current state of the financial system, not immigrants who contribute to our society, culture and economy.

  26. I agree with Richard Symonds, that we need a more radical approach, but a transaction (Tobin) tax across Europe will raise very little money, like vat be passed onto consumers and will not tackle youth unemployment and create more jobs whereas an annual Land Value Tax (LVT) across Europe would bring empty sites and buildings into use (obviously creating jobs) and by allowing governments to reduce taxes on wages and the production of wealth, again more jobs would be created.
    Land would become cheaper for housing and for new or expanding enterprises and the taxes we use to build new infrastructure would, for example, be returned to the government via the higher land values that for instance new railways create.
    As land can not be shifted to off-shore tax havens, with LVT it is tax avoidance schemes that would become redundant – not workers.

  27. In observing the election outcome from afar, my greatest fear is that the ‘progressive left’ will move to the centre to appease the disaffected right, rather than making a stronger case for progressive left policies that people can buy into. We can expect the Tories to do this; and we’ve seen Labour and the LibDems do that over a number of years. Anecdotally, young left voters abstained from the election because they can’t see anything they can support; all parties have let them down, handing the election on a platter to a minority of right-wing reactionaries.

    We need to learn more about language, vision, framing and how to win the argument — not just present a platform of policies.

  28. Mark and Richard and many say we need big changes to tame capitalism. Indeed we do. The issue is how will this be achieved? Not how they were in 1945 I would suggest. so how? This is what Compass is trying to help figure how. The links between political parties and big networked movements of people that can create the ideas and the pressure for change – and who can make change happen themselves – hence transition towns etc. This has to be about us – not just waiting and demanding of them.

  29. Have women opted out of ordinary politics, not one comment below is from a woman. 52% of the population seem to have left the political arena. Politics has become detached from ordinary life, it seems to only have power as its motive.

    1. Thanks Diana- Completely feel your pain there- Im rosie and work in the Compass office and would love to chat about how to ensure what we do and politics in general is more relevant and accessible to all (esp women, people from BME communities etc)

  30. I am afraid I don’t feel that the post election statement really takes us forward.

    While I share much of the Compass vision of how politics needs to change, this is essentially a long term project. What the statement does not address is what you do here and now to reconnect with voters in places like Rotherham or East Anglia who feel as if they have been economically marginalised and politically disenfranchised.

    Calling for a strengthening of horizontal movements, or the creation of a Kickstarter economy, frankly does nothing to address the concerns of voters who are going over to Ukip.

    If Compass wants to be taken seriously it needs to start contributing to the debate about how you counter Ukip without pandering to anti-immigrant and anti-EU sentiment. This should be natural territory for Compass which more than any other group on the left warned about the danger of ‘core Labour voters’ being ignored and left behind. So I am mystified about why Compass seems to have abandoned any effective engagement with current day-to-day politics.

  31. The EU needs reform and the most obvious reform would be to give more power to the directly elected Parliament over the Commissioners and Council of Ministers. In the recent European election I heard little form either of the main parties on European issues.

  32. Whilst not being against new ways of doing things this stuff just misses the bigger point. We will not get meaningful redistribution of wealth this way and that is what we need most of all. Maybe this is considered old fashioned by Compass but Piketty is the man of the moment. (and only saying what others have said before him). I find Jon Cruddas, John Harris and Compass very disappointing. I don’t think you are inventing a whole new paradigm and don’t think your solutions can address inequality in any meaningful way.

    We need a decent tax and regulatory system. New forms of democracy and organisation are all well and good but they need to come second to that. Currently you are just waffling about pissing in the wind.

    I am member of Compass but I won’t be renewing my membership.

    1. Hi Anna, you make some interesting points and I thought it would be worth replying. I have been on a placement year for the past 9 months working at the Compass Office so am familiar with their aims. One of Compass’ main ideals is far greater equality, and clearly you share this value, however this is not removed from a more democratic society. It was only through democracy that we got any kind of redistributive policies to begin with, and our economic system is now highly undemocratic and unaccountable meaning we have to democratise the system if we want to change it.

      Reverting back to the old system of moving the wealth around a bit once it is already unfairly distributed is tempting but ultimately not the way forward. A new system where everyone has a stake from the beginning needs to be what we are aiming for, and I agree with you this would require a new tax and regulatory system as part of a larger systemic change.

  33. Finding this v interesting and agree with the analysis but my questions is HOW we get to something like 45 but for the 21st century. Is anyone doing any proper research based on proper values?

  34. Labour are still reacting to changing situations rather than laying out their vision of a future which addresses present problems in banking, globalisation, taxation, migration, climate change, local democracy and education etc. Once the message is out senior Labour politicians need to get out and discuss it at a local level right up to the next election rather than having endless discussions behind closed doors about how to react to the latest news grabbing dramas created by the press. They need to show they have the courage of their convictions and stand up for them. Isn’t that what Farage has done with such great success?

  35. Hi Arrun, thank you for you reply.

    I do disagree. Wealth gets unfairly allocated in the first instance (pre tax and transfers – ie before redistribution has even taken place) because we have allowed capital to increase its power (via deregulation of the financial system and reduced taxes) and diminished the power of labour (by diminishing unions etc). Unions may have grown up in the beginning from small local starts – and there is no harm in trying to get organised (in perhaps new ways) locally.

    ‘Predistribution’ misses something important though. We only gained major changes in wealth and income inequality after two world wars and a depression destroyed some capital and there being a huge push for fair wages and, crucially, high taxation from political parties as well as the people. Thomas Piketty has found that top rates of 80% or so gave us a more equal distribution of income PRE – tax and transfers because those rates discouraged economic rent seeking. We will only get so far by attempting to ‘pre-distribute’ while capital races away at the top.

    This has to be addressed by political parties with pressure from their members and groupings. We should be pushing Labour to commit to various goals such as wealth taxation, much better financial regulation and international cooperation on these things. Sure that isn’t going to be easy at all but it has the potential at least to achieve a much greater outcome than local initiatives and peer to peer lending etc. These are all very nice but will only get you so far as will horizontal social networks. I am fed up with 38 degrees emails in my inbox. I want real change.

    We should be trying to persuade the Labour Party to talk about pushing for Breton Woods old style financial regulation. Might tbe old fashioned for some but it’s crucial – see Anne Pettifor’s work at Prime economics.

    The suggestions that Compass has come out with so far will only ameliorate some of neo-liberalism’s excesses to some degree. But it won’t achieve any structural change. We don’t need a completely new start that might have some impact in 50 years time – there are some existing mechanisms available.

    Other things Labour should do – change taxation on land and property as per Danny Dorling’s suggestions to get a fairer distribution of the existing housing stock. Although, unlike him, I don’t think you can totally solve the country’s hosing problems this way.

    We also need to build (as I believe Labour has promised to a degree). We need a lot more housing. We need to borrow or perhaps better use Green QE to fund the building of sustainable homes. Sure, the power to do this should be devolved to local areas and politicians as well as having direct involvement from the people.

    I believe a Green New Deal is economically viable and can happen sooner with a party (minus Ed Balls perhaps) pushing for it than any amount of transition towns and small new, cool businesses can manage. A bold promise like this is more likely to appeal to the electorate as well after the media has finished howling about Stalin etc.

  36. I’m afraid this statement does nothing for me! It really is a wishy washy collection of Motherhood and Apple Pie wishes. What do you actually propose? Now?

  37. The distrust of ‘politicians’ is, as Russell Brand has pointed out; ‘this one gets in then that one gets in and nothing changes.’ It’s worth noting that Brand did not tell people never to vote, but said when something worthwhile comes along; ‘vote for that.’
    The ‘fragmentation of voters and parties means we urgently need to switch to proportional representation.’ Here an alliance of the many groups that are in agreement on this ‘urgent’ issue: Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy, Green Party, Compass etc need to really ‘go public’ in a big way. This is at the root of the malaise and disenchantment with politics. Don’t pussyfoot around; let’s go for the best system STV.
    As for the EU, I have to ask, what is the point of trying to reform it? It is and always has been, the ‘club’ of big capitalist corporations and banks. Its reactionary role in the encouragement of neo-nazis in Ukraine; the overthrow of the president, show what it’s really about. UKIP has been able to latch onto the fact that people in Britain don’t recognise a ‘Social Europe’ where, as in Britain, the reforms won in health, education and welfare are being stripped away as the poorest bear the burden of the rampant race for profits. The Labour Party should support the call for a referendum on the EU and enter the 2015 election with that pledge in its manifesto. Failure to do so will give the Tories a ‘democratic’ ace to play.
    Current statements from the governer of the Bank of England and the head of the International Monetary Fund for a fairer capitalism are based on the fear that ultimately it could all come crashing down and likely lead to massive public demands for various forms of nationalisation and socialism.
    When Compass refers to a ‘new politics’ it must surely mean a socialist politics. That is not possible with any kind of mythical ‘responsible capitalism’.

  38. Perhaps it’s living somewhere where there have always been poor people, but I do find this stuff just more of the usual Lawson drone. There are specific changes we need to make that would have a positive impact on ordinary people. Fair rents and increased housing security; making sure GP surgeries don’t shut; ensuring sufficient school places; reduced energy costs etc
    I am bored to tears with Compass’s angst-ridden, “everything must change” mantra. Waffle, waffle, waffle.
    There’s nothing much we can do about old, white xenophobic men in Essex but we do need to offer hope to those who have been made jobless, homeless and hopeless and still have to get through decades before an (impoverished?) retirement.

  39. A huge portion of the people are sheep. Our media which has no democratic validity bears a large portion of responsibility for people’s views. The new communication developments produce more dangers but also give us new hopes.
    If people see that immigrants get jobs because they work for less money, get housing when there’s a shortage, they do not blame the capitalist system, but immigration.
    As you say: the risks for the politicians in the Westminster bubble to change the voting system or introduce compulsory voting are too big to take. A 34.9% turnout means that Ukip’s 23 MEPs, Labour’s 18 MEPs and the Tories’ 18 MEPs are each elected by less than 10% of the electorate. Unless a new vision includes a satnap to lead us there it will never be more than a vision. But working towards it will achieve some of its aims.

  40. I like what you have to say. I feel the Labour Party so far has failed to present a vision of how our society would look under its government. Some inspiring concrete examples of how such a vision would impact our daily lives (and not just for ‘hard working families’), focusing on more than only our household budget, are needed. People are so much more than consumers, and need to feel empowered to create a positive future, not just ward off disaster, which seems to be the narrative of the Right. The film No! about the anti-Pinochet campaign in Chile, is an in spring example of the power of positivity over fear in political movements.

  41. The demand to demand something is understandable – we have proposed and demanded a Plan B, a land value tax, a financial transaction tax, the break up of the banks, greater equality and much more. None of these things have happened. Should we shout louder or work out how to build the political pressure and influence to make them happen. And how should we make change happen ourselves like transition towns and campaigns for a living wage. It is Change What but we can all do lists – the issue is Change How?

  42. Has anyone discovered why it’s apparently easier to campaign AGAINST something (in Scotland, against the union; in the recent elections, against the EU) than FOR something?

  43. I agree with Richard, Nikolai, Danny and Anna. Compass’s current approach is that the Good Society will emerge on the back of many improbabilities but only after we are all dead. Who’s going to vote for that ? Let’s start building it now with a practical and realistic manifesto for next year and then work our damnedest to achieve it.

  44. I can’t quarrel with your statement, and I share many of the comments readers have made, but what depresses me is the suggestion that “we cannot expect a sea change … in the next 12 months”. Maybe so, realistically, but it is now that bold steps should be taken. A visionary statement by Labour could include: a frank acknowlegement of past mistakes; a declaration that future policies will be for the good of the whole of society; that some steps will be taken from the top down e.g. a halt to all proposals for privatisation in health, care and other social services; a halt to all proposals for governance changes in schools; a start to a progressive tax regime and a revision of the council tax etc.; a redirection of resources to nurturing the potential for leadership and good management in public service; that open consultation will begin on rediscovering and reviving the roots of local democracy (taking up the points you make in the statement). This is a plea for boldness and daring, for making people sit up and take notice.

  45. I don’t disagree with any of this, but we aren’t going to win the next general election by spouting off in this kind of highly abstract language. We need:
    a) to project some principled vision of the Britain we aim to form, and
    b) some quite specific and implementable policies which actually respond to what is bugging people.

    I would suggest under (a) statements of the form ” a Britain where even rich people have to pay their taxes … “, ” a Britain where the man in the street can lobby government – and be heard – just as well as the big corporations “.
    And under (b) we could do a lot worse than going in to the election as ” Labour, the jobs and houses party “. [NB Building 200,000 houses a year by 2020 is pathetic. 300,000 would be more like.]

  46. Neal, when you put it like that you view comes across better imo. If you’re saying we want x,y and z but demanding it hasn’t happened so we’ll focus on grass roots efforts (in a 21st century manner, of course). But I do think you need to be realistic about how soon that kind of stuff would have any major impact.

    But some of what you say comes across as patronising and dismissive. “Look at those 20th century folk thinkings it’s 1945 and only one more heave is required.” What does that even mean? Also nobody wants top-down organisation any more.

    Well sometimes they do. Some people would like to see homes built for them for example. Yes, sure you can promote co-production and horizontal networks etc because these are worthwhile things. But they are not THE answer and presenting them as such and as being so exciting doesn’t work for me.

    As for how how you get the change. I think you keep plugging away. If Compass as an organisation wants to take a different approach that’s fair enough but I’m glad of The People’s Assembly (even though I’m not totally in agreement with them), The Green Party and Richard Murphy amongst others.

    Tax avoidance is better highlighted today. Inequality is better highlighted today. Occupy made a point. Piketty has just been a best seller in the US of all places. In time I hope the momentum picks up here and internationally and The Labour Party feels able to be a Labour Party again. In the meantime people need to keep putting the arguments forwa rd again and again. And part of the answer is to argue to reinstate some modified 20th century frameworks. Eg Bretton Woods agreements for finance We’ve seen how things work and how things can go wrong.

    Something will click eventually I hope. We live in an unusual times. Post crash, Scots having a referendum, EU voting patterns. UKIP has just won an election here. They didn’t do it by being 21st century and modern in their approach!

  47. I am a retired Chartered Accountant. I read ‘Leaving the 20th Century’ and browsed the papers on your website, but found mostly broad statements of intention, when I really want to see concrete policies in some detail, even if uncosted.
    Labour has no MP candidate in Cheltenham, nor was there a Labour candidate for local elections in my ward. My only contact with Labour is the party in Gloucester. I vote Liberal to keep the Tories out.
    Like many who believe the Tories are ripping the heart out of our country, I look vainly for statements of moral values behind concrete policies, such as poverty and corporate behaviour. No matter if Miliband does not impress visually, what matters is what he says. If from now on he can voice a coherent stream of policies in a way that touches people’s lives, and if the Cruddas team can support him with continuous publicity, Labour can show doubters and UKIPers that it can change the country and protect the poor.
    It’s the words that Miliband uses to announce new policies that will impress electors, not his delivery or what he eats. I hope someone is already drafting a statement of how Labour will reverse those factors that have alienated people – representation, devolution, immigration, transparency…. The only way I can see how Labour could change the country is to write a manifesto for self and friends, sector by sector. I have to invent so much because Labour has not yet pronounced its programme. Seize the moment and publish a wide range of policies. Don’t wait until next year; the battle has already begun.

  48. The pope says that money has replaced people as the focus of social activity today.
    And that he doesn’t understand economic jargon,but that he does understand what unemployment means,especially for the young.

  49. I would like the leaderships of the left to note that there are now millions of people in private sector tenancies “hanging on”with a months notice; paying higher rents than the mortgage which render 16% returns to the landlord. This is iniquitous. The labour Party’s proposals to rebalance this relationship essential to curbing “Boom and Bust” are weak beyond measure and pay repeated and reverential homage “to the market” ; this private sector market Labour should have observed is corrupted beyond measure, receives 25 billion in public support via housing benefitannually, has received hundreds of billions in public support via the Bail Outs of the privatised mutuals of Northern Rock and HBOS and near half a trillion in support via QE plus 120 billion via Help to Buy. How expensive is this private housing when council housing is in profit and a secure tenant has rent of less than 2/3 an adjacent private property with a tenant on a month’s notice. Is this corruption not at the heart of our bourgois democracy?

  50. More good and helpful comments Anna and all. maybe its the way we build demands too. can we create a manifesto together rather than appear with tablets of stone? Of course its not all new and horizontal but we need to understand the big trends and be part of them. We can sold bold things – for instance Im personally drawn to the idea of a citizens income and demanding it is part of the process – but how does the precariat it speaks to organise themselves into a strong political force. We need policy demands – but they are not so hard. Building the appropriate political vehicles is tougher.

  51. Just one last comment. I have mentioned finance and (international) regulation a few times. That is the only way it can be controlled. Peer-to-peer lending and kickstarter initiatives, whilst valuable, are never going to pose a serious challenge.

    “The global finance sector today exercises extraordinary power over society. The sector dominates economic policy making, undermines democratic decision-making, has financialised all sectors of the economy, and has made vast profits, often at the expense of both governments and the productive sector.” (Ann Pettifor in her ebook Just Money).

    Likewise serious redistribution of wealth (not moving it around a little bit as per New Labour) needs something like Piketty’s, yes highly unlikely, global wealth tax. A living wage, whilst a good move, won’t achieve this. Wealth will still pile up at the top with painful consequences.

    I don’t know if you are hoping that getting people involved in peer-to-peer lending and local democracy and so on will eventually lead to people demanding and getting the big changes.

  52. The human race may think it has transcended nature but it hasn’t. We can look to the natural order of things for our guidance. As the seasons of the year sublimely show us the circularity of nature, we can question the entrenchment of the artificial linear model on politics, economics and so much else. The Zeitgeist of the Age is a move to make all systems circular, just as we are on our physical journey back to clay.

  53. Neal’s post wasn’t visible when I made my last comment. Thanks for your reply – it explains your position more.

  54. In the early years of the 20th Century a new party was appearing on the scene. Formed by the trade unionists, who themselves were victimised by the establishment. It was many years before the newly formed Labour Party had any powers. Today we have a new party emerging. This time not to bring more advantages for the working classes but as a revolt over the European Union and the “open door” policy relating to immigration. Perhaps the seeds have been sewn for another political party to answer the concerns the population has in the 21st century.

  55. At a May Day meeting organised by the Waveney Trades Union Council we had a Bob Blizzard asking for support for the Labour Party. Directly in fron of him was a yellow bucket into which Citizens where putting contributions for the Care U.K. Strikers in Doncaster.
    In 2006 the Trades Union Councils on the Isle of Wight and others from the mainland held a well attended protest meeting in Lymington. We were protesting at the handing over of a brand new PFI built hospital in Lymington being handed over to a private company to run. The private company was Care Uk and it was a Labour government that handed the hospital to Care Uk.What value Labour party policies?

  56. It’s difficult to comment briefly: there is so much that could be said.

    A “citizen led politics of everyday democracy” is great – I mean it! – but it tends to be rooted in issue-led activism. It risks being as exclusive, in its own way, as the “metropolitan elite”; and it risks the wider public interest being swamped by knee-jerk prejudice. (Citizen-led democracy would certainly see off a windfarm which is planned off the coast where I live.)

    I doubt whether “transformative changes” can be wrought solely through better processes and policies – essential though they are. One under-remarked characteristic of UKIP, in my view, is that they do manage to convey a vision of the kind of society they want: unattractive, unrealistic and retrogressive, maybe, but a vision nonetheless. We “progressives” need to build and promote a competing vision of a political economy rooted in reason and ethics instead of prejudice and self-interest; in a fair share of society’s assets and fair reward for labour; in respect and care for fellow citizens; and in openness, and care for, a wider world. Who knows, maybe the next coalition could coalesce around such a vision and – whatever their differences on means to those ends – help to haul us back from the gloom into which the current coalition have taken us.

  57. It is often said that the English have a tinge of reactionary feeling. Certainly this is true of our media. UKIP is not fascist or racist (even if some of its spokespeople are), but it is reactionary. That is how it won so many seats in the recent elections.

    Only one recognised party has a coherent set of politics which are fit to deal with modern society. That is the Greens. Surveys have shown that many of their policies are highly popular with the electorate when divorced from party politics. However it does not have the media clout to win votes en masse. What we need is for supporters of green policies to infiltrate the main parties so that they can not only put such policies forward in their manifestos but win the popular vote and put them into practice.

    In 2010 the Lib Dems were probably the greenest of the 3 main parties, and when forming the coalition the Tories managed to lure them to self destruction by promising to be the “greenest government ever”. Now there is a move to oust Clegg — but changing party leaders won’t make a difference unless one also changes the attitudes that led to the parties becoming alienated from the public, including their own supporters — and this is as true of Labour after 2010 as of the Lib Dems.

  58. I agree with the contents of the document but we need to go further in the short term. I have just returned from Canada – their banks are still healthy, they are separated into investment and consumer related divisions. Germany handled the part time job issues more than a decade ago by implementing a requirement that all employment hours required contributions of pensions and employment taxes, holiday pay it stopped the erosion of full time work places and created far more full time jobs allowing people decent wages instead of having no pension to look forward to and the necessity of working 2 or 3 part time jobs.
    Council tax is most unfair it penalises small home owners and allows mansions to pay a pittance, other countries have taxes based on the land value and house value, with some allowing grants to pensioners and those who have resided in their homes for periods of 10 years plus. therefore they are not hit by high taxes resulting from desirable homes overtaking their neighborhoods. We do not have to completely reinvent the wheel in the short term. If Labour would accept and promote these types of policies it would help us to move towards fairer standards.
    The IMF in their statement re the British economy gave a warning about the ever larger disparity in wealth and poverty stating that it is a dangerous situation , yet we hear nothing about that in the media or from our political parties.
    I am really worried about the lack of visions of our current crop of politicos, except for people such as John Cruddas.

  59. By and large I support the basic message you wish to get through. however, since your paper was written, International affairs have worsened severely and attention to these MUST become a major responsibility of this, and the next, government

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