Following the recent decision by Compass to admit members of other political parties, the organisation has been hit today by a number of resignations. Nine leading members of Compass Youth including the chair, Cat Smith, and Ben Folley, a member of the national management committee, have resigned. They argue that the new rules “diminish the role that Compass is able to play in shaping Labour’s future, estranging itself from many Labour supporters.”
The full statement reads as follows:
We joined Compass as an organisation seeking to give a coherent voice to mainstream members of the Labour Party when the party leadership was becoming dangerously divisive. Not only was it disconnected from the membership, but it was increasingly oblivious to public opinion.
For many of us, it was Robin Cook’s opposition to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq that initially drew us to Compass. But it was the way in which the organisation challenged thinking in the party, on the role of the market and the need for an active state, which galvanised new activists. The divisions over tuition fees and foundation hospitals helped bring Compass to life, but it established itself when tackling those in the party advocating public service reform in the shape of Post Office privatisation and trust schools.
With Ed Miliband as leader, we have a greater opportunity than ever to re-shape the direction of the party, but that debate still needs to be had. Unfortunately, Compass has recently chosen to allow members and elected representatives of parties that stand against Labour to become members of Compass and help set its direction. This will necessarily diminish the role that Compass is able to play in shaping Labour’s future, estranging itself from many Labour supporters.
We feel it necessary to organise in support of the politics initially espoused by Compass as members of the party, within the party, rather than through a broader structure so that we can credibly have this debate. It is for this reason we have resigned from Compass. We would welcome all those who share our view of a changed Labour Party to continue this discussion on how we move forward.
Ben Folley, Compass Management Committee
Cat Smith, Chair, Compass Youth Organising Committee
Caroline Alabi, CYOC
Arthur Baker, CYOC
Heather Elliot, CYOC
Ben Furber, CYOC
Lucille Harvey, CYOC
Axel Landin, CYOC
Ben Soffa, CYOC
Neal Lawson, Compass Chair, has responded with his own statement:
Compass members know that politics isn’t working and that we all have the responsibility to change to meet the huge challenges we face in creating a new politics. That is why 68% of the membership voted to work with all who share our values for a world in which the market serves society and not the other way round.
It is therefore a shame that a few who didn’t support the decision are now leaving. After participating fully by actively campaigning in the democratic ballot we wish they had given us at least a bit of time to prove that our influence in every respect will grow and flourish. Compass remains committed to transforming Labour and knows that is more likely if we are helping to lead a broader progressive alliance. Furthermore as a result of the recent ballot our commitment to a transformed Labour Party is now enshrined into our constitution and like the unions we have retained the right for Labour members and supporters within our ranks to vote on Labour issues.
But what matters most are principles and values. We will be stronger opening Compass up to everyone who shares our commitment to building the good society. We don’t want anyone to leave nor do we want to exclude anyone simply on the tribal grounds of party colour.
So we are sad that a few have decided to leave but of course that is their prerogative and we respect that and look forward to working with them and others against the cuts and campaigns to regulate the banks, end legal loan sharking and much more besides.
There have been a small handful of resignations but three times as many people have now joined the organisation in the last week and we are expecting hundreds more as we start a new recruitment drive. Luke Pearce is now the Acting Chair of Compass Youth and along with the hundreds of other young members of Compass will work to expand the radical and exciting work of all young people who want a more equal, sustainable and democratic world.
Compass will always remain committed to the Labour Party; we will also remain pluralist and democratic to our core in all that we do.