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Compass (think tank): Wikis


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Compass is a centre left[1] pressure group, aligned with the UK Labour Party describing itself as 'An umbrella grouping of the progressive left whose sum is greater than its parts'. Compass differs from a classic think tank in that it is a membership organisation and thus seeks to be a pressure group and a force for political organisation and mobilisation.

Compass was launched in 2003 with the publication of a founding statement called A Vision for the Democratic Left. Supported by a number of academics and Labour politicians unhappy with the political direction of Tony Blair this was the first attempt by Compass to develop a more coherent and radical programme for a progressive left government. Since then it has published a number of pamphlets and a series of booklets as part of its Programme for Renewal charting an alternative path for the New Labour Government and for progressive, Centre-Left activists in the UK.



Since its inception Compass has rapidly risen in influence and media prominence. The Chair, Neal Lawson, writes regularly for The Guardian newspaper and when he called for Tony Blair to resign in May 2006, it was widely reported in major newspapers.

Compass organises a high-profile annual conference. The conference on 17 June 2006, included many public figures such as Ed Balls, Neal Lawson, Derek Simpson, Hilary Benn, Fiona Millar, John Harris, Hazel Blears, Kevin Maguire, and Ed Miliband. There were calls for, amongst other things, the abolition of the monarchy and the destruction of nuclear weapons put forward by the membership.[2] That year it merged with the Catalyst think tank. The 2007 Robin Cook Memorial Conference 'Shaping Our Global World', included speakers such as Ken Livingstone, Dave Prentis, Frances O'Grady, Jon Cruddas and Helena Kennedy as well as panels and seminars organised by groups such as UNISON, Friends of the Earth, War on Want, Liberty, The Fabian Society and the Citizen Organising Foundation.

The Compass website is a widely used source of information and debate about progressive politics with opinion pieces posted regularly by a wide range of authors made available for online comment and debate.

Ceasefire Magazine Interview

Compass received a large amount of publicity when Musab Younis interviewed Compass general secretary Gavin Hayes in the October 2008 edition of Ceasefire Magazine. In the interview Hayes stated that "where Compass plays its role, is as a pressure group – an organisation to actually push forward some of these policy ideas and campaign for them.” .[1]

Programme for Renewal

The Programme for Renewal is the name of the Compass policy review. This has involved commissioned 'thinkpieces' for publication on the organisation's website, seminars, working groups and online discussions involving over a hundred academics, policy thinkers and practitioners. The outcome of this process was three short books. The Good Society outlined the Compass conception of a progressive society, A New Political Economy explored progressive and alternative economic policies and Democracy and the Public Realm looked at the renewal of democratic processes and structures. The text of these books was made available online in order to be subjected to discussion and debate.

Compass Governing Structure

Compass is managed by a committee of persons elected by the membership annually. The members of the committee for the year 2007/2008 are: Neal Lawson (Chair), Willie Sullivan (Vice Chair and Scotland Rep), Mark Cooke (Treasurer), Meg Russell, Colin Crouch, Trevor Fisher, Beryl Finlayson (Wales Rep), Jon Trickett MP (co-opted), Chuka Umunna (co-opted), Anna-Helga Horrox (co-opted), Sarah Jayne Clifton (co-opted). It also holds an Annual General Meeting open to all members at which the constitution, policy and strategy of the organisation can be debated and amended. Gavin Hayes is the General Secretary of Compass, and also serves the Management Committee as its Secretary but as a full-time member of staff does not have voting rights.

Miranda Grell announced on her website in an entry dated 1 December 2007 that she has resigned from the Compass Management Committee following the failure of her appeal against her conviction for two offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.[2]

Compass Youth

Compass Youth is an autonomous organisation which aims to engage young people to find out what issues really matter, develop their skills to turn ideas into action as well as organise and champion campaigns young people can get involved in.

It is most famous for its campaigning on Votes at 16, its participative manifesto debates and Love Difference festivals. It has developed right across the country represented regionally and on university campuses.

It also has its own Youtube, Facebook, Flickr and Netvibes channels.

The current Chair of Young Labour, Sam Tarry, was previously chair of the Compass Youth Organising Committee.


Since its inception, Compass has been criticised by some (most notably Tom Watson MP and several other bloggers) for both its critical attitude to Tony Blair's premiership and the left-leaning policies advocated so far. It is frequently compared to Progress as a faction of the Labour Party.

See also

External links




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