Compass launches a new Liberal Democrat network

Many of you will be aware of Compass, the progressive organisation headed by Neal Lawson. Although its origins lie in Labour, for many years it has been positioning itself as centre-left and cross-party.

Introducing themselves, the Compass Liberal Democrat Network writes:

Liberal Democrats are natural pluralists, our core liberal values demand nothing less. We are open, empathetic, curious and inquiring. But we are also social. We believe everyone should be able to fulfil their potential and it is the job of the broader society, and through it the democratic and devolved state, to ensure this happens.

These two values combine to point our party in a clear direction, and that is towards a cross-party dialogue on the Centre left. This is not just a desirable outcome but is increasingly feasible and necessary.

At this stage it is not proposing any specific collaborations between parties at national or local level, since these will “vary in relevance from place to place”. Instead:

Compass is focused on building cross-party alliances around values, policies, and action, and welcomes progressives from all parties and none.

The formation of the network has been inspired by this report: We Divide. They Conquer: If Labour struggles to win alone, what is to be done?

So who is supporting this new venture?

The following Liberal Democrat members and supporters have backed, in a personal capacity, the establishment of the Compass Liberal Democrat Network:

Vince Cable, Jane Dodds, Chris Bones, Christopher Bowers, Ian Kearns, David Hall-Matthews, Simon Hebditch, Ben Rich, Neil Sherlock, Duncan Brack, Gail Bones, Duncan Greenland, Neville Farmer, Matthew Hulbert, Jon Alexander, Laura Lomer, Mike Tuffrey, Rev Simon Wilson, Gareth Epps, David Boyle, Julian Ingram, Gavin Grant, Linda Jack, Christine Jardine

Liberal Democrats are invited to the cross-party launch event, entitled A Progressive Majority: Building the Power to Win, which will take place on Monday 14th December at 5.30pm. Speakers include Layla Moran.

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29 Comments

  • Their sausages and hash browns used to be quite nice 😉

  • Paul Barker 11th Dec '20 - 4:01pm

    This is all a “Good Idea” but I am not expecting any miraculous conversion of Labour to pluralism or Electoral Reform.
    I am much more hopeful about Liberal/Green co-operation, outside Scotland of course.
    Come the next but one Mayoral Election in London & I think a joint Green/Liberal ticket could drive The Tories into third place.

  • Is there still a Liberal Democrat Party ? Has Ed Davey gone into hibernation with the wee critters at the Fife zoo he visited in Fife, or is he back serving in the Stockport chippy ?

    Where are the press releases and headlines about a Lib Dem Government in waiting at this time of national crisis….. with urgent drugs stuck in the EU, GPs in England refusing to vaccinate and Brexit looming ? All I can find is Sir Edward was in Bristol with President Pack not long ago to launch the Mayoral candidate – who promptly resigned two days later.

  • david marder 11th Dec '20 - 6:23pm

    I wish this the very best. Labour cannot win now by itself without Scotland. Labour attention {and Conservative} will be on the red wall. LibDem must go for the yellow halo forty but it will require SirEd to wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Chris Bowers 11th Dec '20 - 9:19pm

    Speaking as one of the people who has backed this initiative, and has devoted a lot of energy to promoting centre-left cross-party cooperation, I think it’s important to remember that initiatives like this are not pushing some rosy, cosy, fireside love-in. They are a pragmatic response to the inflexibility of first-past-the-post which will ultimately allow us to retain our identity when the promised land of a proportional voting system arrives.
    The breadth of opinion in the Conservative Party is ludicrous – how can Ken Clarke be in the same party as Daniel Hannan (well he’s not any more, but you know what I’m saying)? – but they form this absurd enduring coalition to win elections. That’s why we have to do the same, but if we do it via sensible cooperation, we still keep our identity, so we can bang the drum for liberalism when we have a voting system that will reflect our votes.
    I am deeply worried about the future of democracy and political discussion, and we will only save them if we help create a viable non-Conservative government. That requires us to work together with people and parties who have not been kind to us in the past and whose political platform is in some respects different to ours. But the possible prize of PR (which has to be a red line for working with Labour), when even a 6% vote share would give us 40 MPs, is worth fighting for.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Dec '20 - 9:36pm

    Oh dear. This is really all about a group of well-meaning members of the Labour Party trying to co-opt the Liberal Democrats into some kind of joint effort to get a Labour Government elected under the spineless and politically useless Keir Starmer. Dialogue over specific policy areas and so on is fine, but it needs a Liberal Democrat input that is based on (1) a clear understanding of what the party stands for and (2) clear policies that are both radical and distinctive as a basis for going into discussions. The former is the more important but neither exist at the moment. What we need to do is spend the next year or probably two establishing these things and getting a consensus of understanding and agreement without our party. Then we can start to talk to others because we will have stuff to input into the discussions. Meanwhile this “initiative” is already being spun in the media etc as an electoral pact to get Labour in. No way. The Labour Party is a big part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Dec '20 - 10:36pm

    David

    Yes, though actually there is no alternative stance from Starmer, nothing but, ehhhhhhm!

    Chris

    Labour is so broad, more than that you show, thanks for thinking our lot can fit in between their right and far left, but you can argue a plural cross party situation like Europe and we have centre left after election, in coalition, or two big groups like the US

    Blair favoured the US but you see where that went even as Ashdown, and he were friendly, try getting ed and keir to be in an alliance, with unite and co?!

  • I’m a member of Compass, although I do sometimes share Tony’s concern that it can often come across like a vehicle to promote Labour, albeit wanting to shape Labour to adopt some policies that ourselves and the Greens have already adopted.

    Nevertheless, I’m a pragmatist, and we do need Labour and their supporters on board if we want meaningful change, and most importantly, Compass do recognise that FPTP is undemocratic, and that Labour are kidding themselves if they think they are going to get a majority under FPTP any time soon.

    I took part in their pre-launch Zoom meeting, and it was immediately obvious that there were a very high number of Green party supporters on board. This was partly because they’d already set up a kind of trial Compass group specifically for Greens, but I’m guessing also because Green party members are more outward looking.

    The big stumbling block will always be Labour’s refusal to formally stand down candidates, but I think there is scope for working to draw attention to area of shared policy to encourage regular voters and to lend their votes to another party, and to prevent local activists from being so petty about seats they should know they can’t win.

    I actually think that many Labour voters would like to vote for a party that supports PR and Universal Basic Income and a better relationship with the EU. But the usual antics of elections gets in the way.

    One thing that stuck with me was that if Labour still refuse to stand down at any seats, we would need a firm agreement that they support PR for future elections.

    I’m not convinced I have time right now to get properly involved, but I am keen to follow what’s going on, and stick my oar in from time to time. I hope we get a decent number of LDs involved to make sure our views are fairly represented.

  • Colin Bradbury 12th Dec '20 - 1:09pm

    This is an interesting initiative and I will certainly take a look at what’s on offer. However in the short term I share the concerns of the poster above about the radio silence from HQ on the looming no-deal Brexit. This is going to be the biggest own-goal in a generation from the Tory party and the lead headline on our main website is ‘Our Fight To Raise Carers’ Allowance’. If we don’t take this opportunity to state our case on the biggest political issue of the day, we don’t deserve any attention from the electorate.

  • Rob Parsons 12th Dec '20 - 1:27pm

    To those saying Labour are not interested in changing the voting system, there is change under way there. More than 100 CLPs have passed motions calling on the party to adopt PR in its policy platform. There remains plenty of opposition to it, but the tide is clearly changing.

    And can we please stop equating co-operating with standing down. Labour’s insistence on standing in every constituency does not have to be an obstacle. Co-operation on a platform can take many forms other than standing aside. In fact standing aside can often be counter productive: it seems very clear now that if we had stood down in Canterbury as some wanted, Labour would not have won because many LibDem votes would have transferred to the Tories. In my view it is much better – and it is certainly more feasible in many places – to stand a candidate but not to campaign, and to make it clear by various means who we want votes to go to. That way those too tribal to lend their vote have somebody to vote for, and a great deal of angst is avoided for the local non-combatant party.

  • david marder 12th Dec '20 - 4:42pm

    I find it a little incomprehensible that Lord Greaves calls Starmer spineless. Apparently our leader has managed 14 seconds on the news in nearly 5 months during all the current crises.Thank you Layla for what you said today.Most welcome.

  • This is an iniative I very much like. There must be many policy areas where we agree or nearly agree. We must find a near common approach to this populist Government who are now militarizing Brexit against our NATO allies.

  • Neal Lawson 12th Dec '20 - 7:12pm

    Thanks for comments and thoughts. When Compass stopped being just Labour – which was a huge move for us – you were in the Coalition. So more Greens joined us than Lib Dem’s. We are keen to put that right. Labour tribalists accuse us of being a Lib Dem or Green front. We can’t win. That’s fine as long as we help break down daft barriers that stop progressives winning. We really hope to get a big Lib Dem influence in Compass

  • Simon McGrath 13th Dec '20 - 8:42am

    Lord Greaves is spot on here. This is another attempt by labour to get us to stand down .

  • Simon McGrath. No I cannot agree with you. There is more that unites us than divides us so it cannot hurt to share ideas and strategy. Our party remains silent on the issues of the day so we are bound to be drawn to another party leader whoever that may be.

  • I agree with Rob. It’s something that I wanted to say in my original post, but on reading back it doesn’t come across. I think I was trying to be concise, but overdid it.

    It’s not that it’s unreasonable to be annoyed that Labour won’t stand down in any seats, even as a token gesture, but we shouldn’t let that be a block on electoral cooperation, so long as there are other factors in play. A key one is that of Labour being nudged towards embracing electoral reform, and Compass did seem to be suggesting that getting Labour to adopt a policy of proportional representation could be vital in greasing the wheels of future cooperation, even if they never stand down. I’d also expect any particular candidate who is to get support to personally endorse reform too.

    Then as Rob says, there are those constituencies where it isn’t better for someone to stand down, but that shouldn’t become so much of a sore point that activists for the more progressive parties are so busy fighting about why THEY should stand down, that we let the Tories in.

    I’m hoping these groups could oil the wheels a bit – encouraging the more tribal activists to let go of their resentment over the rumour they heard about that time twenty years ago that a Labour/LibDem/Green activist did something unsporting. I’d also hope it would help activists to be a bit more realistic about what party leaders can say in tv debates. Even if we hope to work together a bit more, especially if it gets us electoral reform, we should not expect candidates or leadership to become cheerleaders for other parties, or to ignore significant areas of policy difference.

    I actually think a lot of traditional Labour voters would be surprised by how many things we had in our manifesto that they would want to support. Often things missing from Labour’s manifesto. If handled right, this kind of cooperation will help us spread the word about all of those things we stand for that don’t make it into a three minute news bulletin.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Dec '20 - 2:32pm

    Should we move Labour towards full support of PR then we dont need to ask anyone to stand down .Our target would be getting significant levels of support behind a candidate in terms of first and second preference votes . My view is if local government is moving towards larger unitary authorities and away from districts and boroughs then those unitary authorities should elect by PR , we should be able to get more traction cross party in the first instance for reform of local government rather than be seen as wheeler dealers at general election time .

  • Chris Millman 15th Dec '20 - 12:47pm

    There is everything to gain for the Lib Dems here. The report highlights about 80 seats where LDs are second to Tories, in which Labour have little interest. With 70% of Labour activists now supporting PR, even if their leadership fails to back an alliance, we can appeal over their heads to Labour voters.

    As Rob Parsons points out above, it’s not about standing aside, which can be counter productive, but a question of where you place your resources and the message you promote.

    As a Green Party member, I am committed to campaigning for my party in our stronger areas (usually against Labour,) but would be happy to support Lib Dems in some of those rural seats in which LDs are the clear alternative to the Conservatives. Just leave us one seat in each ‘travel to campaign’ area and you can have the rest.

  • Donald Cameron 17th Dec '20 - 5:10pm

    There have been several views here on how to achieve better Parliamentary Government for Britain and the various difficulties to do it at present including supposed Labour Party inclination to any cooperation with other parties. If Compass follows a good path it may lead us to a solution.
    The TARGET should be, by avoiding controversial methods like Standing Down, Pacts, Coalitions etc. but by getting reasonable agreements from Labour, SNP, Lib Dems. and Greens get enough MP elected to outvote a minority Tory Party Government [very possible] after the next General Election, then abolish FPTP and introduce PR. Thereafter have a new General Election by PR and may the best man win !

  • Simon Hebditch 18th Dec '20 - 10:06am

    As another one of the signatories, I just want to emphasise that we need to realise that Labour has no chance of winning the 2024 election. It will increase from its present dire state but not enough to win. The Lib Dems are showing no increase in its opinion poll figures so will be lucky to win 20 seats next time. The Greens will, if they are lucky win a handful of seats.
    Any putative alliance needs to ensure that a progressive government introduces proportional representation in the first year and a general policy programme which can be signed up to by Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru. This list illustrates that one item to be included in a government programme should be a new constitutional settlement across the four nations. That is why I believe that co-operation across the political networks must include the attempt to build a common platform for change.

  • Simon Hebditch 21st Dec '20 - 11:25am

    The facts are straightforward. First, Labour cannot win on its own in 2024. The mountain is too high at this stage. Second, there is no evidence that the Lib Dems will be able to increase its polling figures either at the current rate of progress (or decline}. Third, as far as national elections under the current arrangements, the Greens would only be able to win a maximum of 10 seats in 2024. So, we have to either create a totally new approach to the conduct of politics in order to break up the present system or we have to come to terms with long term Tory rule, in England at least.

    Future pacts are the least important problem we face. We must create new policy programmes which can attract support across centre left parties. If that can be achieved then a plethora of methods of co-operation can open up the straitjacket of the current party political system.

  • Chris Millman talks sense. If you want forever Tory incompetence and all that goes with it forever then don’t talk to Labour or the Greens, and get ready for Scotland to leave the Union.

  • @ Simon Hebditch “As another one of the signatories, I just want to emphasise that we need to realise that Labour has no chance of winning the 2024 election”. That’s not the case, Simon. For the first time in over a year, the Labour Party has gained a small lead over the Conservatives on who should govern the U.K….

    When asked which party they would vote for were an election held today, more voters now say they would vote for Labour than for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. Labour’s vote has risen six points since 2019. In the space of eight months, Labour has gone from trailing the Tories by more than 20 points to leading by 0.1. The Lib Dem vote has halved.

    Source : the latest GB-wide Westminster voting intentions from the Britain Elects poll tracker.

    What should be of concern is that the Liberal Democrats face a wipe out at Holyrood next May,and on present form, at Westminster next time too.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Dec '20 - 3:51pm

    I really wish people woudn’t make rash simplistic predictions based on current national polling. Labour’s issue isn’t whether it pulls ahead of the Tories nationally, it’s how the party does in its former “Red Wall” heartlands, as well as in Scotland (where unless the SNP vote collapses between now and the next GE, Labour has little hope of making major gains). A Labour lead in the polls on current levels should translate into Labour being the largest party, but probably not an overall majority (the standard definition of “winning”). As for next year’s local and regional elections, how each party does will depend much more on the state of its ground campaign than on national opinion polls, so that’s the Tories’ hopes dashed. Lib Dems, even on current polling levels, are likely to win on the lists in Scotland. Local elections in particular depend on local ground campaigning, and national polls are a poor guide (particularly for the Lib Dems, whose election operations are based overwhelmingly on ground campaigns).
    And the GE is 3½ years away, and a lot of things will have changed. For one thing, Brexit will have become a reality. For our party, a run of good local election years would remind voters we exist.

  • David Allen 21st Dec '20 - 7:22pm

    This makes more sense than Lib Dem tribalism or Labour tribalism. But it doesn’t make enough sense, because the tribalists have the strength to block it. What the tribalists don’t have is enough strength to win elections.

    If I knock Lib Dem tribalists, most of you will just switch off. So I’ll have a go at Labour tribalists.

    Labour have become the party of “If only”. If only Corbyn hadn’t screwed it all up for us. If only Brexit hadn’t screwed it all up for us. If only we can persuade Northeners that we don’t all come from London. If only the press and Facebook didn’t have it in for us. If only Starmer could be more idealist / less idealist. If only Labour could get past all these temporary little problems, then Labour would come roaring back – As the natural party of government.

    Rubbish. Labour are telling their ex-voters that they should stay with Labour, trapped in a Coronation Street time-warp, wedded to all-male trade union power in British rust-belt factories that closed a generation ago. That is the self-image Labour still want to foist on the ex-“red wall”. The people of Red-Wall-Land are determined to reject that outdated past image, and nothing will now persuade them otherwise.

    Compass are only halfway there. Until Labour and the Liberal Democrats both realise that they are bed-blocking parties which hold back progressive politics, and both make way for a new anti-Tory force, then the Tories will continue to rule, despite their obvious incompetence.

  • Paul Barker 21st Dec '20 - 8:06pm

    There is good news from Labour, Starmers latest speeches move them a long way towards Our position on Devolution & Federalism & Labour Campaigners for Electoral Reform seem to have got their act together in a big way.
    I think we should stop saying that Labour cant win on its own, we dont need that argument & its a huge hostage to fortune. Lets remember that 8 Months ago The Tories hit 55% while they are currently around 39%, this is before the Economic problems kick in. I see no evidence that Labour cant get a Landslide in 2024, without Scotland & without any help from us.
    We should be arguing for Cross-Party Respect & Limited Co-operation because they are Good Ideas in themselves.

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