Is Compass about to call for tactical voting on the liberal left?

The search for a new, non-tribal politics continues.

The influential left-wing pressure group Compass -- launched in 2003, chaired by Neal Lawson and fronted by Labour's Jon Cruddas -- has sent out an email tonight to its 4,000 members asking them whether or not the organisation should devise a short statement in support of tactical voting to help stop the Tories from winning the general election.

A ballot form is attached to the email, which says:

something seismic could be happening in British politics which reflects the Compass view of a more pluralistic and tolerant progressive democracy . . . So should Compass actively promote this new politics by arguing for tactical voting -- and calling on people to back the best placed progressive candidate to stop the Conservative candidate and deprive the Conservatives of victory at the general election?

Endorsing tactical voting, naturally, means endorsing Liberal Democrat candidates in Tory-Lib Dem marginals -- something that Labour pluralists like Alan Johnson and Andrew Adonis have so far refused to do. To be fair, the letter acknowledges that such a move by the organisation could be controversial, noting that "while Compass is not affiliated to the Labour Party many Compass members are also members and supporters of Labour".

Compass has been attacked in the past by Labour tribalists for daring to reach out across party-political lines, inviting non-Labour figures such as the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, to its conferences. So I imagine the likes of Luke Akehurst won't be too pleased tonight.

I'm not a member of Compass, but if I was, I'd be backing the move. Why? 1) Progressive coalitions are a good thing. 2) Labour tribalists are short-sighted and self-destructive. And 3) Lib-Lab tactical voting might be the only means left of denying the Tories victory on 6 May and preventing a disastrous Cameron premiership.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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