- The arithmetic DID work. The rainbow #progressivemajority added up – a Labour insider has told me that even the DUP wanted it, because…. 33 minutes ago via mobile web
Compass and pluralism
Compass does not allow members of non-Labour-Parties full membership; it is considering changing that rule; it must make the change, if Neal Lawson’s claim that Compass is a pluralist organisation and part of a movement towards a genuine Left-pluralism is to be both true and seen to be true.
Compass is a major sign of life in Labourism, and a source of pluralism on the Left (http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2010/06/pluralist-party-labour ). Take for instance Compass’s call for tactical voting, at the recent General Election: (http://www.compassonline.org.uk/news/item.asp?n=9314 ), and its support for electoral reform.
But there remains a contradiction at the heart of Compass’s pluralist mission. Compass, while not formally affiliated to the Labour Party in any way, has a rule that forbids members of other Parties from being full members. In other words, Compass’s ‘pluralism’ is very strictly curtailed, because members of other parties cannot participate in Compass’s formal democratic structures, and thus cannot play any democratic part in determining Compass’s own direction.
This came home to me with full force recently. Applying to Compass for membership, I was told that, as a Green Party member, I was entitled only to associate membership, with no voting rights. I received my membership pack, and rather bizarrely this included a letter that stated “You’re a member of a democratic organisation. Every year Compass members get a say in how the organisation is run through our management committee elections [etc.]”. I queried this with Gavin Hayes, Compass General Secretary. He replied that I received this letter, the same as any other Compass [full] member gets, because there are so few associate members that it is not worth there being a separate letter written for them (us). This seems a rather unsatisfactory response: it is rather insulting or at least bemusing to receive a letter telling one that one is part of a democratic organisation when in fact one is excluded from its democracy. Compass would without doubt attract more members who belong to political Parties other than Labour, if it were to change the rule excluding us from full membership.
I queried with Gavin Hayes (Compass’s General Secretary) the status of the rule excluding members of other political Parties from full membership in Compass. He replied: “The rule is something we examining at the moment.“ Another senior Compass source spoke with me at greater length, and explained that “It’s certainly not inconceivable that we change that rule. We could for instance disaggregate the membership of Compass, allowing those Compass members who are compatible with Labour-Party affiliation to vote in those of Compass’s affairs that exclusively concern Labour such as the ballot we are holding on who Compass should back for Labour Leader but allowing all Compass members, including members of the Green Party and of other parties, to vote on all other matters.” (This same senior Compass source went on to say, fascinatingly, that “If Caroline Lucas were a member of the Labour Party, then she’d probably be elected the next Leader of the Labour Party so it certainly seems reasonable to try to work out a way for her to be able to become a full member of Compass ”.)
Compass is to be applauded for pushing at the boundaries of Labour tribalism, while retaining influence and leverage on Labour. Allowing Caroline Lucas to speak at its conferences for example has been a brave move that has paid dividends (http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/10/02/compass-was-right-to-invite-the-greens/ ).
But this question of who is allowed to join Compass as a full member is a vital test for Compass, and for the future of Labourism. If it really wants to embrace a pluralist politics, a politics suitable for a politically- and electorally- reformed
Check out my account of yesterday’s meeting of ‘Ed Miliband for Labour Leader’: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/a-green-perspective-on-ed-miliband/
Prominent Norwich Green Councillor Adrian Ramsay will call for an end to factory farming when he joins campaigners from Animal Aid at an awareness raising event in Norwich city centre this Monday 26th July. Campaigners will highlight the human health risks associated with keeping animals in poor conditions on factory farms.
A stall will be held at the bottom of Hayhill on Gentleman’s Walk from 12 noon until 2pm [PHOTO AND INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY: 1PM with Adrian Ramsay]. It incorporates a series of hard-hitting images, all taken in the UK, designed to expose the conditions that animals endure in some factory farms.
As well as being Deputy Leader of the Green Party nationally and a Norwich Councillor, Adrian Ramsay has been a member of the national campaign group Animal Aid for 15 years. He commented:
“This is an issue very close to my heart – Green Party policies on animal protection were one of the things that first attracted me to the party 12 years ago, and they remain just as important now.
“There is clear evidence of a link between factory farming and disease outbreaks like bird flu and BSE. The Green Party is the only party that has pledged to end factory farming in the UK, as well as enforce strict welfare standards. We are widely acknowledged to have the strongest policies on animal protection.
“This campaign will show that ending factory farming is the right ethical decision in terms of animal welfare but also the right decision for human health.”
During the 2007/8 bird flu outbreak, hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys were slaughtered on East Anglian farms to try to prevent the spread of this virulent disease. During an investigation it was uncovered that Bernard Matthews, the UK’s largest turkey farmer, who farms more than seven million turkeys each year, had been warned several times about hygiene lapses on its farms.
The Green Party would encourage more sustainable forms of food production in place of factory farming. Adrian Ramsay said:
“We need to move away from factory farming and towards farming that is healthier for humans, animals and the environment. This means more localised and less intensive agriculture.”
Animal Aid has published a video on its website showing the horrific conditions in which the majority of Britain’s farm animals live. The video can be viewed at: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/f/CAMPAIGNS/blog//4//?be_id=264.