Progressive Alliance – The Story So Far

Ayeisha Thomas-Smith

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Compass, as our name suggests, is always on a journey.  We started by just wanting to influence the direction of the Labour party, but we have grown into something  much more ambitious. Today, we want to influence and build alliances across all the progressive parties, and to create a democracy in which all voices are heard so that we can negotiate a future together. Nothing less will do.

Progressive Alliances (PA), an idea long championed by Compass, are the strategic, values and purpose based coming together of civil society organisations, social movements and progressive political parties to – in the first instance – break the logjam of our electoral  system. Following the Brexit referendum, the idea of a Progressive Alliance has taken root in the public consciousness, offering unprecedented glimmers of hope for new movements and new ideas. The Guardian, the New Statesman, openDemocracy and many others have recently featured articles on progressive alliance building. A recent YouGov poll on the Labour leadership election showed that the majorities of both Smith and Corbyn supporters would be happy to be in coalition with the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru. ‘The Alternative’ – a collection of essays compiled jointly by a leading Labour MP (Lisa Nandy), a Liberal Democrat (Chris Bowers), and a Green (Caroline Lucas) and supported by Compass has launched this month, covering the policies and values that could unite the progressives and the possible mechanisms for cooperation.

Over the last few years, Compass has been at the forefront of the efforts to prefigure this new politics. Amidst the wilderness of post-Brexit Britain, we decided it was time to start organising. On the 5th July we brought together over a 1000 people to begin the conversation, including representatives from Greens, Labour, Lib Dems and SNP. You can watch the highlights on the Compass website. Following on from the event, we organised or were involved in a string of similar well-attended meetings in Brighton, Frome, Liverpool, and Wealdon with upcoming PA events confirmed in Birmingham, Lancaster and Surrey – see our website for full details of the events and how you can get involved in local organising.. Our first crowdfund for Progressive Alliance brought us over £4000, which we used to run our first major event and the local meetings that followed. This was invaluable in beginning the overwhelmingly task of building the political, institutional and cultural infrastructure to replace our outdated party political system.

After the July event, we asked attendees what they wanted to see from the project in the coming months, and the consensus was that there is a need for an online hub where people can engage with each other and with the ideas, share content and information on upcoming events and actions.

We are fundraising for £5000 to build this platform. Can you help?

From now until 2020, Compass will be throwing all of its weight behind building  Progressive Alliances as a long term strategy to change British politics, and the engagement hub will create a crucial space for building the relationships and alignment required to make a new progressive politics possible. Please donate to our crowdfund and help us bring the hub to life.

This long-term campaign for Progressive Alliances will include the development of an extensive strategy document and crowd-sourced manifesto, more regional participatory meetings, engagement with civil society groups and sustained media campaigning. The work will encompass an  inclusive, systemic and democratic approach in order to create the conditions necessary for a progressive alliance to flourish. Compass, of course, cannot carry the weight of this project on our own, nor should we try. We will work with all initiatives, parties, organisations and individuals who share our values to achieve change. Crucially, we can act as a convener to bring people, organisations and ideas together. But we can’t do it alone. We will need your support and guidance throughout the journey, and here’s where you can start…

  • Naming the campaign – does the term Progressive Alliance accurately represent our aims? And if not, what should we use instead?

  • Local meetings – where should we hold PA events, who should be in the room, and how should they be run?

  • Contributions from women for the blog – we want to run a series of blogs and think pieces by women that look at how Progressive Alliances could amplify the voices of women in politics. If you’re a self-defining woman, please email Ayeisha with your thoughts and help us make sure the progressive alliance is a feminist alliance.

If you have ideas or suggestions, let us know by commenting on this blog post on the Compass website.

And really importantly –can you donate to support our efforts?

Progressive Alliances cannot just be the rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic and a ‘coalition of losers’. It must feel, look and be fresh; something people want to identify with, especially young people and people who sense something new is needed, but have not found a place for their engagement. Because we are a unique organisation that wants to be political rather than a charity, it’s really tough to get external money.  So the answer comes from within. We need you to give now to help us make the most of this moment.

The job of Compass is to ensure the new is born. Help us do that.


Other interesting reads on Progressive Alliance:

The Greens have got it: alliances can work for Britain’s progressive parties

Progressive alliances could be a game-changer – for the Greens and the country

Dead Centre: redefining the centre of British politics

Yes we can—and we must: what a progressive alliance might learn from Podemos

If you won’t kiss a Tory, will you hug a centrist?

‘Progressive Alliance’ is now the only alternative to the Tories

Topics discussed:

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  1. Posted by Paul Richardson

    Why does an online hub require £5000 to get going, please?

    Surely an understanding of the requirements for such a hub would be better to publish first rather than raising the money. Is its purpose to:
    * Allow real-time communication (chat) between Compass members?
    * Sharing of documents and other files?
    * Secure access to sensitive material?
    * Forums for posting topics with replies?
    * Calendars / bulletin boards for broadcasting events?

    These requirements can be delivered via free / open-source / software solutions, available for download on the internet. If the crowdfund is to pay for an IT staffer to install and configure software then I quite understand but I think it imperative to point out that no proprietary solution should be bought with such money before considering the requirements and looking at all avenues in which the solution could be sourced.

    For example, if the focus is on real-time chat communication, ie. a meeting place for online discussions, then Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has been around since the ’70s while applications such as Chatzy (https://www.chatzy.com) offer similar functionality via a web page. IRC is completely free to use (dependent upon the right host) while Chatzy is free for small groups then scales up the cost for greater numbers.

    Would it be possible to publish the requirements to allow informed discussion of their merits please?

    Reply
    • Posted by Jacqui

      It is to cover the costs of designing and building a website, hosting a website, designing online processes for participation which needs to be bespoke design, sourcing content for the website.

      Reply
  2. Posted by Chris Neill

    Currently, communications.from.Compass are about the only thing which makes me feel politically hopeful, so thanks for this. Progressive Alliance is a good name. – there might be a better one but unless no until someone thinks of it we shouldn’t waste time worrying about it. (‘Ju dean People’s Front / People’s Front of Judea?’. Good luck with the hub-building, I’m donating £50.

    Reply
    • Posted by Maud

      , our weather has been all over the place lately. My Facebook status earlier today reports a sighting of a woman in a full length fur coat, just paces ahead of one in a slveleeess vest top. Everyone is caught out here on a daily basis!

      Reply
  3. Posted by anita soley

    I don’t like the name Progressive Alliance, I would prefer either Social Alliance or People’s Alliance. But the alliance idea is really important, keep up the good work.

    Reply
  4. Posted by dr david seddon

    I remain concerned at the continued slippage in your blogs/articles between ‘progressive alliances’ – which I favour – and ‘Progressive Alliance’ which appears to be a specific ‘alliance’ about which I have serious doubts as it appears to promote division within the Labour Party and Labour movement – can you clarify?

    Reply
  5. Posted by Will K

    Local meetings:
    • Out of London, but not just big cities like Birmingham and Manchester. I think we need them in old market towns / “post-industrial” towns – think Harlow, Boston, Nuneaton, etc.
    • Parts of the country where Labour would be a junior part of the alliance – the South-West and Scotland.
    • Platform shaped by the people attending
    • Need to be organised by local people (sense of place so important). The meetings need to be participatory. This is the essence of the alliance – if top down and orchestrated by MPs, it will not happen. Somehow finding local people (perhaps ordinary party members?) to host meetings. Local events should get to dictate the nature of their own local meeting. This will be a hard balancing act – ensuring by-in from existing party infrastructures and encouraging new people in. Having the guidance of experienced “community organisers” from Citizens, Flatpack Democracy, Movement for Change, etc who have experience hosting interactive meetings.

    Reply
  6. Posted by John Wright

    Progressive – only has meaning for politicos. Alliance – an insurance company. Be better if we could think of a single word, like Podemos (though this translates as three words, I know) or Respect.
    Together! Too vague? Weak?
    Involve!
    I’ll get my thesaurus out.

    Reply
  7. Posted by Tim Lewis

    Like Chris, Anita and John I don’t think Progressive Alliance is a great title – too in-house and for those of us of a certain age, too many echoes of a previous Alliance that didn’t end well. But I was also stuck for a better one.

    And then I heard Nicola Sturgeon’s conference speech and the keyword she used throughout, and realised that was the name – INCLUSION.

    After all, it sums up what this is supposed to be about – an inclusive alliance of progressive parties in favour of an inclusive, open, fair accessible society.

    Even better, it has it’s own shorthand. Take the letters at the centre, at the heart, of the word Inclusion – Us.

    And that opens up so many catch phrases:
    “Join with Us”
    “Don’t vote for Them, vote for Us”
    and best of all “Our Country’s future belongs to Us!”

    What do you reckon?

    Reply