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About Neal Lawson

Neal Lawson is Chair of the pressure group Compass and has written many pamphlets for the organisation on the themes of democracy and equality. He was author in 2009 of All Consuming (Penguin) and was co-editor in 2001 of the Progressive Century. He serves on the Boards of UK Feminista and the AV Referendum Campaign.  He is a Contributing Managing Editor of the quarterly journal Renewal and writes for the Guardian and the New Statesman. He appears regularly on radio and TV.  He was previously a trade union researcher, an adviser to Gordon Brown, and a communications consultant. 

Articles by Neal Lawson

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom's crisis in democracy

On Brexit, as with every other big issue, the future will be negotiated not imposed.

A “People’s Vote” on Brexit – be careful what you wish for

We will never build a progressive internationalism on the basis of a democratic fix. We need democratic renewal at both UK and European level.

Labour's democracy review should be about more than selection procedures

If Labour wants to shape the future, it must reinvent what it means to be a political party.

The anti-semitism crisis shows the Labour leadership needs to get better at listening

Team-Corbyn need to get better at listening – starting with the organised Jewish community.

Forget 'big tent' politics - we need space for a progressive camp site of parties and movements

To win back a fractious public currently feeling betrayed by broken promises of 'control', politicians must admit that power has to be shared - including through a better electoral system.

One year on from the by-election that changed progressive politics

A year ago, Zac Goldsmith was kicked out of his Richmond seat, proving that a Progressive Alliance could work. One year and a general election later, was that it for plural campaigning?

Big-hearted Greens light the path to a new politics

At their annual conference, the 'progressive alliance' was a hot topic. Should the Greens continue to advocate alliance politics and tactical voting, even if Labour and the other parties don't reciprocate?

Why the future of progressive politics relies on the Greens

As the Green Party prepares for its conference this weekend, Neal Lawson of Compass offers a refocused electoral, campaigning and organisational strategy to build on strengths and win hearts and minds.

Review: Frankie Vah takes the Fringe

Luke Wright's explosive play takes us into the dilemmas of the eighties left and helps tell the story of where we are today.

It's time to make plans for a post-election Progressive Alliance

The door is open to a new politics – all the parties have to do is walk through it.

Labour's problems are about far more than one leader

Everything that made Labour strong has been turned on its head. The party must embrace the future, or it will die.

El legado de Bauman

Zygmunt entendió la crisis de la socialdemocracia, cuyo éxito estaba enraizado en empleos sólidos, identidades fijas y consignadas en los estados-nación, y abrió el camino para pensar en la necesidad de tejer alianzas progresistas. English

Bauman's legacy

Zygmunt understood the crisis of a social democracy built on solid jobs, fixed identities and bounded within nation states, and paved the way for thinking about the need for progressive alliances. Español

Dear Labour

The world has changed. Labour needs to change with it.

Labouring on? It's time to leap

What is to be done about the Labour party in the UK?

Dear SNP

The latest in a series of letters from the Chair of Compass to the members of each of Britain's progressive parties.

Dear Liberal Democrats

In the second of a series of letters to progressive political parties, the Compass chair encourages the Lib Dems to pick a side, and show why they are needed.

Dear Greens

In the first of a series of letters to progressive parties, the chair of Compass encourages the Green Party to drive the political debate.

Europe is our battlefield

We must fight for the continental union we need.


Is Labour dead and how can radical hope be rebuilt?

The arguments against proportional representation have melted away

First Past the Post was designed for a previous era. We must change all of our politics - but the voting system first.

Why we need the internet more today than ever before

Being able to transmit and receive on so many different levels to such a variety of audiences may be rewiring us for better emotional health.

A new world from the bricks of old walls

As we pass the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall, new walls between people are being torn down. More than ever, governments must build platforms to empower citizens.

'Violent shopping': the riots and consumer capitalism

The report on England's riots recommends protecting children from excessive marketing. Too little, too late. If we want to prevent future riots, we have to kick back against consumer culture in its totality.

Democracy by machines or morals? Why the AV referendum matters to the Left

The future of the centre left in Britain is dependent on the AV referendum result. A Yes vote would open the doors to a new politics, fit for a fluid, decentralised world. This is Labour's opportunity to shake off a deadly, elitist culture and embrace pluralism, dialogue and democracy

Labour must trust the people

Lenin is dead. And so, if you hadn’t noticed, are Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Yet the Labour Party is still in the grip of the politics of elitism. For the party to reclaim power, it must lay these ghosts to rest and embrace democracy - not as a means to grab state power, but as an end in itself.

Social democracy: in crisis the world over

The crisis of social democracy is closely linked to that of capitalism. How should it respond to the sharp reminder that the interests of capital and labour are not identical?

Beyond bureaucracy and market

The bureaucratic state of the mid-20th century ran its useful course, and the attempt to return to a mythical nineteenth century market state failed us. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman helps us to think our way beyond both

The Left and the Big Society II: Neal Lawson

How will the left respond to the clear challenge of the Conservatives' Big Society project? Niki Seth Smith is asking the leading people and institutions on the left how they view the idea, as part of OK's debate on the Challenge of the Big Society. Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, furthers the discussion, after Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society set the ball rolling.

The Labour case for AV

In an important new pamphlet, seeking to persuade his party of the need to fight for reform in the forthcoming referendum on AV, Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, sets out why democracy should matter to Labour. Lawson argues that empowering the collective voice of the people will help achieve Labour's aim of building the "good society", drawing on empirical evidence that proportional systems produce more equal outcomes. He argues for the superiority of AV over first past the post and that Labour should embrace the change, as a crucial step in the direction of PR, through an "active intervention" to ensure a Yes vote. Here, OurKingdom re-publishes the opening argument of the pamphlet, which you can read in full here.
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