I’m a member of the Labour party and proud to be so. I’m also a member of Compass and proud to be so. So what do I think about the decision today by compass to vote to open up voting membership to those who belong to other political parties. Well when I cast my vote I put the little “X” next to the no box so you might think I would be really disappointed.
However I think my response is a little more nuanced than that. Firstly and importantly I did not vote no because I think the idea was in of itself wrong, I just didn’t think it would work.
Apart from a few New Labour evangelists, and knuckle dragging party tribalists I think there are very few people who would believe the Labour party is right on all issues and that we have a monopoly on wisdom. People and Party’s views, policies and positions change. They often change in relation to one another. I am a member of the Labour party but in reality there are many policies the Lib Dems have on civil liberties that I wish the Labour leadership would adopt. And there are huge chunks of what the Green Party stand for that chimes very deeply with sincerely held views I hold. And heck, even the diaspora or crazy batshit mental lefty parties and trots occasionally have good things to say from time to time (that one is for you Rob W !)
For me that the campaigning soft left should have a cross pollination of ideas, and finding the grounds for cooperation areas on which we have common cause and can work together has to be a good thing.
You see here is the real kicker, and I know this pisses off the small “c” conservative Labour party dinosaurs, but UK politics is changing. Us in the party bubbles may still be incredibly tribal, we may see politics as urban warfare, black or white, us or them. But…. and it is a big but, increasingly the public are moving away from that. The public are becoming less tribal, the vote is fragmenting (an excellent take on this from the always excellent Next Left can be read here) and patterns of how people support parties is changing. And you know what barring something utterly miraculous that is going to continue to happen.
Irrespective of what happens in the AV referendum there are going to be more hung parliaments moving forward than we had become used to in the years leading up to 2010. If the Labour party is going to be able to succeed, win power, make real positive changes to peoples lives then we have to be able to find a way to look outward and work with others. For me the “soft left” in the Labour party really ought to be the engine of how this can happen. If the Labour party soft left in Compass cannot work with the Greens and left leaning Lib Dems how are we going to form a coalition if the next parliament is hung but Labour do better?
But despite thinking this I still voted no. Almost entirely as a tactical decision, because I think our politics at the moment is too tribal, too short-term-est, too blinkered. And I think too many people especially in the Labour party either don’t understand how voting behaviour is changing or are choosing to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend things are not going the way they are.
I worry that Compass opening up it’s membership just wont deliver the kind of open, dynamic progressive movement that will ensure that the next government has a progressive character in the event of a hung parliament (or even an outright labour win!). I must say I think the principle outcome is likely to be that Compass’ influence within Labour will be massively diminished.
And in the end this will harm Labour and the whole left wing progressive movement. One of the reasons I came back into the Labour party fold was that in Compass there was a successful campaigning body for the soft left that seemed to be changing Labour for the better. I imagine there are a fair few others like me. If opening up Compass means that good work stops being done then it is bad for Labour, bad for the Left and bad for the country.
I do ever so hope I am wrong.