A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dissent in Compass

Readers will know that although some of my best friends are members of Compass it is not my favourite political organisation.

A brief scan through the comments on its website reveals it is not even the favourite organisation of some of its own members, who feel Neal Lawson has taken it a long way from the "critical friend of Blair and promoter of whizzy new policy ideas" role suggested when it was founded.

Presumably those unhappy with having their names associated with the increasingly leftwards slide of Compass include Ruth Turner, now gainfully employed at No10 but then on the NEC, who was a signatory of its founding statement.

Leading the fightback inside Compass at its AGM last weekend was one Stan Rosenthal who ran for Compass' Management Committee on this platform:

"Over the past year I have been trying to open a debate within Compass on the democratic legitimacy of the leadership committing us to a strongly anti-Blair stance in the absence of this being part of the original Compass recruiting pamphlet or being included in the platforms on which MC members were elected. I also considered that such an excessively confrontational and divisive attitude towards Blair was counterproductive to our progressive ideas being taken up by this Labour government and by any future electable Labour Party.

The response of the MC was first, to stop the posting of these views on the old Compass website, then (after persistent challenging) to post, but bury, them in the deep recesses of that site and finally to censor any reference to the Compass democratic deficit on the more current sites.

Voting for me would send a signal that your views on where Compass should stand on political-positioning issues can no longer be taken for granted. If elected, I will continue my efforts to provide the opportunity for all members to have a say on such matters. Dare more Democracy…….within Compass! Be the change you wish to see… in Compass! Vote Rosenthal!"

Good to see such tolerance of dissent and such democratic accountability from Neal et al.

I am almost tempted to join so that I can vote for Mr Rosenthal but the prospect of contributing £32.50 to Gavin Hayes' salary is a price too high...


Anonymous Duncan said...

Is Lee Findell still involved with Compass?

8:25 pm, September 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Stood for their exec but lost. Not anti-Blair. He was one of the friends I was referring to.

9:35 am, September 20, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Bless him. Is he well? I haven't seen him for years.

10:47 pm, September 20, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Yes he's fine and about to become a dad.

9:15 am, September 21, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Cool. I always rather liked Lee (I don't imagine he remembers me quite so fondly!) Give him my best wishes if you see him.

4:57 pm, September 21, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

As his desk faces mine it is quite easy for me to pass on your best wishes.

8:12 pm, September 21, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


Lee says he always liked you too!

1:19 pm, September 22, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt many of you will have read Neil Lawson's latest 'letter to Tony' that was published in the Guradian some weeks ago and is still to be found on on the Compass website. I am a member of Compass, been to a few of their events and backed a couple of their campaigns (most notably their opposition to the Education White Paper).

But recently I have been having my doubts about just what Compass is attempting to achieve.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Neil Lawson wrote:

"Your New Labour was a closed conspiracy of a few very clever individuals who in the glum shadow cast by Thatcherism seized a traumatised and disorientated party without breaking with the central tenants of that neo-liberal hegemony."

Is this true? Am I part of a neo-liberal hegemony? Is Compass suggesting that New Labour has not achieved anything because it has not done everything?

Is Compass pointing us in the direction of travel or is it leading us down a dead end?

I have, on reflection, decided not to renew my membership.

6:50 pm, September 23, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

I suppose Neal Lawson would know about the closed conspiracy because - as far as I'm aware - he was a part of it (hence the least accurate part of his assessment - "very clever individuals" - which is a bit of veiled narcisism). I don't really know what Lawson's up to. He's using the sort of rhetoric I might use (I don't think New Labour greatly broke from the neo-liberal hegemony of the 1980s, though to say so is not to say it hasn't achieved anything worthwhile) - but why would someone like Neal Lawson use the sort of rhetoric I would? Someone who spent most of his political life trying to ensure that people like me had as little influence in the party as possible? I remain distrustful. I'm sure there are lots of decent people in Compass - both those from the right who joined it believing it to be a critical friend of New Labour, and those from the left who joined it to organise a critique of New Labour. But I'm not sure what it's about at all.

1:44 pm, September 24, 2006

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