Compass (think tank)
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Compass is a values based British political pressure group that is allied with the progressive left. It has strong links with the British Labour party, but also works alongside other political organisations that share its desire to build a good society. Compass commits itself to helping shape a fairer Britain, where ‘democracy is deepened at every level of the state, our workplaces and communities; where the sustainability of the planet is made an urgent priority’ and where ‘the market is made to work as a servant of society.’
Compass is a democratic organisation with over 5,000 members across the country. The group organises various events throughout Britain, many of which feature prominent members of parliament and individuals from civil society. It also produces publications and runs high profile campaigns.
Compass was launched in 2003 with the publication of a founding statement called A Vision for the Democratic Left. This was supported by a number of academics and Labour Party politicians unhappy with the political direction of Tony Blair’s New Labour. This was an attempt to develop a more coherent and radical programme for a progressive left government.
Programme for Renewal
In 2006, Compass published Fit for Purpose: A Programme for Labour Party Renewal by Jon Cruddas and John Harris. This was a contribution to the Party Renewal Project launched by the Labour Party in March of that year.
In September 2005 Compass also launched a wide-ranging policy review called the Compass Programme for Renewal. The key thinking of its working groups appeared in three publications:
- • The Good Society [September 2006]. Outlined the need for an alternative politics, based on wellbeing, care, equality and sustainability.
- • A New Political Economy [January 2007]. This gave the centre-left a route map to manage the forces of global capitalism in the interests of society.
- • Democracy and the Public Realm [June 2007]. This looked at potential democratic processes and structures that could provide the legitimacy and accountability for managing the economy in everyone’s interest.
Compass’s views on political, social and economic issues are informed by its values.
- • Democracy
- Compass believes that human beings are able to thrive when they are free, equal and empowered. They seek the democratisation of our lives in communities, workplaces, public services and civil society
- • Equality
- Central to the Compass vision is reducing inequality of wealth and power in order to enable human beings to thrive and ensure the basis for greater sustainability, empowerment and innovation.
- • Sustainability
- Compass believes that the way our society is currently constructed is environmentally unsustainable and unless radical changes are made we are heading quickly towards a future of runaway climate change and mass species extinction.
Compass has achieved a lot in the relatively small amount of time that it has been in existence. Some of Compasses most important successes are:
- • Companies Bill
- In 2006 50 MPs, led by then Compass Parliamentary group chair Jon Trickett MP and Colin Burgon MP persuaded the Government to reconsider crucial elements of the companies bill. Compass wanted the introduction of an amendment which required companies to publish details of their relationship with suppliers. This pressure helped to reshape this historic piece of legislation.
- • Stopping the Counter-Terrorism Bill
- In 2008 Compass worked with Liberty and other groups to amend Government plans to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days. Whilst the government won the vote, they did so with a greatly reduced majority and the bill did not pass, as it was defeated in the House of Lords.
- • High Pay Commission
- In 2008 Compass called on the Government to establish a High Pay Commission to monitor and investigate the causes and results of high pay. The idea received widespread support, but the Government ultimately refused to establish the commission. Instead the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust funded Compasses own independent commission. The recommendations of the commission have been partially endorsed by the Coalition Government and accepted wholly by the Labour party.
- • One-off tax on Bankers’ Bonuses
- In the 2010 budget, Compass successfully persuaded the Labour Government’s Chancellor Alistair Darling to impose a one off tax on bankers’ bonuses.
- • End Legal Loan Sharking
- In 2010 Compass worked alongside a coalition of community based groups across the country on a campaign to end legal loan sharking. This campaign gained the support of over 200 MPs and managed to bring loan sharking companies like The Money Shop to the discussion table.
Members have direct input into how Compass is run through regular membership engagement and democratic decision-making. Each member can participate in regular membership consultations, the Compass Annual General Meeting and committee elections.
Members can also join Compass local groups. These groups are used as a means to discuss local and national issues in an open and inclusive space. Through these groups members can also assist in local and national campaigns.
Compass local group areas are:
- • Scotland
- • Wales
- • East Midlands/ Nottingham
- • Yorkshire & the Humberside/ Leeds
- • North West
- • North East/ Newcastle
- • East Midlands/ Central South Nottingham
- • West Midlands/ Birmingham
- • South West
- • East
- • South East
- • London
The organisation is run by an annually elected management committee and relevant officers to oversee the actions of Compass. The management committee members for 2011/2012 were:
- • Neal Lawson (Chair)
- • Ruth Lister (Chair of the Management Committee)
- • Sue Goss (Vice Chair)
- • Mark Cooke (Treasurer)
- • Lisa Nandy MP (Parliamentary Rep)
- • Willie Sullivan (Scottish Rep)
- • Russel Elliott (Welsh Rep)
- • Prof Francesca Klug OBE
- • Victor Anderson
- • Tom Wallis (Compass Youth)
- • Carys Afoko
- • Purna Sen
- • Heather Wakefield
- • Simon Hebditch
- Nunns, Alex. "What Became of the Labour Left". Red Pepper. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Reed, Howard. "Plan B+1 Rebuilding Britain and a Good Society". Compass. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Lawson, Neal. "My Part in Tonly Blair's Downfall". compass. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Harris, Cruddas, John, Jon. "Fit for Purpose: A Programme for Labour Party renewal". Compass. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
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