Does a more pluralist Compass mean a more pluralist Labour?

The left-wing pressure group debates whether to open its doors to non-Labour members.

The divide between pluralists and tribalists remains one of the most significant in the Labour Party. It underlines the increasingly fractious debate over electoral reform. With this in mind, the decision by Compass, the influential Labour faction, to ballot its members on whether to offer members of other political parties full membership status is an important development.

At present, members of other parties are only entitled to associate membership and cannot stand for the management committee or vote in internal elections.

Here is the key paragraph from the text that has gone to Compass members in support of the change:

The crux of the issue is this: why do we let in neoliberals who backed low taxes, privatisation of the Post Office and PFI because they happen to be in the Labour Party but keep out a social liberal or green socialist who campaigned against all this and more, because they are in another? Party affiliation is only one (albeit important) aspect of today's politics. The Facebook generation has shown that it is perfectly possible to have multiple affiliations to different left political causes; this is the future of political identity.

One reason why the result is worth watching is the ongoing debate about Labour's own membership rules. At the end of last year it was reported that Ed Miliband plans to refom the party's electoral college to give 25 per cent of the vote to non-party members who register as Labour supporters.

In addition, as I've noted before, having once joked that he wants to make the Lib Dems "extinct", Miliband has adopted a more conciliatory tone in recent weeks. In his speech to the Fabian Society last month, he declared his respect for those Lib Dems who have "decided to stay and fight for the progressive soul of their party", and pledged to campaign for the Alternative Vote, having previously only promised to vote for it.

If, as seems likely, Compass members approve the proposed reforms, we could see Labour and Lib Dem members working far more closely together on areas such as constitutional reform, climate change and inequality. With hung parliaments likely to become more, not less, common in the future, it is not just desirable but essential to heal the progressive divide.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.