Regular readers of this blog who aren’t members of the Labour Party or followers of Labour politics may not be aware of Compass. That may not be a bad thing, to be fair. If you are a member of the party or vaguely supportive of the Labour movement, then it’s very likely that you’ve either heard of them, seen one of their many policy and campaign documents, or, even worse, ended up on their email list. That email is harder to get off than Readers’ Digests contact list.
Essentially, Compass has been a forum for Labour members to discuss policy and campaign for change within the party. It’s only fair to make an admission at this point. I’ve never been a big fan of Compass. It started off in 2003 as a way for the Blair administration to undermine the last power base of ‘Old Labour’ on the ruling body of the Party. But Compass has always had a habit of watching the way the wind is blowing and then, like barley in the field, bending in that direction. So when Blair’s unpopularity grew, Compass started moving to the left. Towards the Old Labour they were originally undermining.
And so they continued swinging north, south, east, west as the political winds changed. They talk like they’re leading in a particular direction whilst, in fact, they follow the majority of the party. And that’s why I’m not a big fan. A classic example of this was during the General Election. Following the first debate, Nick Clegg’s star was in the ascendency and his polling figures began to rise. Not long after that, Compass recommended voting tactically for the Lib Dems possibly helping to create the current coalition which is rushing around wrecking the country.
Following on from this decision, in more recent days Compass has polled their membership to decide whether they should open up to people who aren’t members of the Labour party. After the poll, Compass announced that 68% of those who voted have supported that change, which they believe will strengthen their influence across the broad left of politics.
However, in practice, what this is leading to is Compass losing influence with the Labour Party whilst gaining no real influence with the Lib Dems or Greens. On top of that, if you look closer at the vote results you see that the turnout of the ballot was 13% of the total membership. That means that only 8.85% of the total membership have actually voted for this change. A change which could destroy Compass and leave the left-of-centre members of the party without a voice. I wonder how long it will be before they see the needle swinging in a direction they don’t like.