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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who do Compass think they are?

I try to avoid looking too obsessed by Compass, honestly I do.

But today Compass has been singularly unhelpful to the Labour Party, which it purports to support, by reopening the question of the Party Leadership, as reported in today's Guardian.

Their timing could not be more destructive – on the day of the final Queen’s Speech before a General Election, and just as the first tentative steps towards a Labour recovery have started with a thumping by-election win in Glasgow North East and a 4% boost in this week’s ICM poll.

Who do the Compass “Management Committee” think they are to sit around plotting to undermine a Labour Prime Minister? And more to the point what do the Guardian think Compass is, publicising the self-aggrandising sectarian scheming of a small group as though it was major news?

The Guardian consistently calls Compass a think-tank. This is insulting to real think-tanks that work objectively to generate new policy ideas. Compass is a political faction, the only policies it publishes stem from its own prejudices, not objective research.

The Compass claim to have 4,000 members and 30,000 supporters is repeated without scrutiny, yet the membership list includes people who swear they have resigned from it or never joined, and generated a paltry 237 voters when Compass held internal elections; and the 30,000 “supporters” is a mass-spamming exercise sending emails to anyone unlucky enough to have their address fall into Compass’ hands. I get two emails to different addresses from Compass yet I’ve never indicated support for them.

At their AGM last weekend Compass "General Secretary" Gavin Hayes (winner, most pompous title of the year award 2009) compared himself to the General Secretary of the Labour Party, saying:

"And on the Labour Party I have to say I think my counterpart Ray Collins could learn a thing or two from Compass, and let me tell you if you’d wanted a robot for a General Secretary then you might have picked him. It gives me no pleasure to say that over this last year, as a long-serving loyal Labour activist myself, I’ve stood back and watched in utter aghast at some of the goings on in Labour’s Ivory Towers. Whilst this week may mark 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, increasingly the New Labour machine looks a bit like a clapped out Trabant, feels a bit like the dog days of an Eastern European Communist Party – an ossified party state welded to a dogmatic ideology, entrenched elites, dormant party organisations and a stagnant economy."

Not only is it hubris on a massive scale for the head bureaucrat of a staff of four to compare himself to the General Secretary of the Party in government; it's unfair to personally attack a paid member of party staff who is prohibited by their contract from responding to these kind of attacks, and massively insulting to the hard-pressed and hard-working staff who are working their socks off to try to win the General Election.

This confused grouplet, who advocate a lurch to the left for Labour but are reported to favour Blairite candidates Alan Johnson and David Miliband for Party Leader; and who claim to back Labour but give platforms to the Green Party’s candidate in a seat they hope to take of us, gets far more publicity than it deserves.

Labour Party members should concentrate on trying to prevent a Tory General Election victory and reject the sort of sectarian plotting and undermining of Party unity that Compass is indulging in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I’ve stood back and watched in utter aghast at some of the goings on in Labour’s Ivory Towers."

Maybe if Compass were bigger they could find a General Secretary who spoke English.

1:36 pm, November 18, 2009

Blogger Andy DM said...

Couldn't agree more Luke. I might not have liked the result of the leadership election but that was the result to abide by.

We don't have the luxury of being able to fight between ourselves and I wish that Compass would recognise that.

2:00 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous Paul said...

I'd resign from Compass today if I've ever joined.

Mind you, judging by their emails they seem to think I've joined, so I might resign anyway.

2:03 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous tim f said...

I have yet to come across a Labour member who spends a reasonable amount of time online and is not on the Compass e-mail list. To the best of my knowledge, hardly any of them are members, however (to the extent that I'm surprised to Compass claim that a full 13% of their e-mail list are members).

They seem to be more of a personality cult than a fully-fledged faction, in that they don't have any real organisational clout, rely on e-mails and press releases and have no coherent political principles or narrative other than "let's all go back to the year 1997 when Neal Lawson was important and Labour was more left-wing" (both of which are contentious statements).

2:15 pm, November 18, 2009

Blogger Hopi Sen said...

I'm not on their email list.

Do I get a prize?

2:28 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous tim f said...

Yes. Dignity and self-respect. (Can be reeemed to a cash value of 0.001p)

3:00 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous Arnold said...

Perhaps Compass just know what you ostriches and dinosaurs seem to miss or are unable to compute - the 800lb elephant in the room.

So repeat after me: "Next year if Brown is in, Labour is out"

The sooner you stop believing you can win and get rid of that unelected dithering buffoon, the sooner you can put a case for election to the public.

3:06 pm, November 18, 2009

Blogger Andy DM said...

@Arnold There was an election for leader of the Labour Party, Brown won that so the idea that he's unelected is silly. I'd rather not spend time ineffectually attacking our Prime Minister, instead I'll be attacking the Tories for thinking that the way we get out of this recession is to give the rich more taxbreaks and cut the wages of the poor.

3:40 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But is anyone going to their xmas party?

"Our No Turning Back Christmas Party features lo-fi ukulele jazz, a German Oompah Band explaining the crisis of capitalism, an eighties vs noughties poetry slam and in conversation John Harris, Helena Kennedy, Jon Cruddas and Chuka Umunn."

4:29 pm, November 18, 2009

Blogger Joe Goldberg said...

I used to be on there email list but I think I have been since removed - a badge of pride I'd say

6:35 pm, November 18, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I am on the email list (and am not a member)... However I have entered the odd discussion on their website before now (where, I note, most contributors seem to be well to the left of Compass MPs, if not to the left of Compass public proclamations).

However, I do feel we should perhaps consider whether this story is true. No element of the print or broadcast media seems entirely happy these days without assuming there's a leadership plot in the Labour Party. And indeed no Labour Party-related news story can gain more than an inch or two of column space other than to allege some new plot.

I share some of your criticisms of Compass (though from the opposite end of the Party's political spectrum) and find the apparent Compass/Progress nexus frankly bizarre (bordering on some kind of stitch-up). BUT... sometimes internal Labour Party media stories sound bizarre and illogical because they have essentially been made up, by people who don't really understand our internal processes or relationships.

(For example, see how many times Alan Johnson is described as 'left-wing' right across the print media).

9:13 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compass Committee member Ben Folley put his thoughts down here: http://www.labourlist.org/guardian-article-compass-brown-agitiation-ben-folley

I assume you agree with the basic point if not the detail on economic policies.

10:51 pm, November 18, 2009

Anonymous Tom Copley said...


Compass, while criticising specific policies of the Brown government, has never backed a challenge to his leadership. During the last attempted coup in June, when your Blairite friends like Hazel Blears were sticking the knife into Gordon, Compass refused to join them. Indeed, Jon Cruddas came out in public to support Gordon's leadership. To attack Compass based on one unidentified "source" quoted in the Guardian is completely unjustified - and you know it is! You must have just been delighted to find another excuse to attack Compass.

I don't recall you slamming Blears/Purnell etc. on your blog when they publicly tried to overthrow Brown.

12:28 am, November 20, 2009


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