Compass points away from Brown

Guy Aitchison
13 May 2008

Guy Aitchison (London, OK): Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, has an article in today's Independent calling on Brown to step down and return to the Treasury. He offers an analysis not dissimilar to Anthony's in Why Brown is Doomed, blaming the PM's plummeting popularity on his failure to make a decisive break from Blairism:

"Brown in a panic pressed the rewind button back to the failed pro-market politics of Blairism. The default option won the day. But times have moved on… Blairism no longer works even as an electoral strategy. Trying to push the Tories to the right under the assumption that the non Tory vote has nowhere else to go no longer holds on any level. The Tories refuse to play the game, and instead are leap frogging Labour to pose as progressives enabling Cameron to pick up middle class support. Meanwhile the core Labour vote, bemused and unloved, either stays in doors or finds another political home entirely. It creates a pincer movement of voting forcers that are decapitating New Labour." 

James Forsyth is surely right to suggest this is an important moment. Compass may not (yet) have a huge numerical influence but at a time when the internal organisation of the Labour Party is weaker than ever before, with membership plummeting, the central coffers bankrupt and decapitated without an executive director of the party organisation, Compass represents a rare point of energy and mobilisation (see its forthcoming Free and Equal conference for an idea). Initially it had some hope for Brown's premiership even while supporting Jon Cruddas for the party Deputy Leadership. The group has provided a strategic space for those on the left angry with Labour over Iraq and disillusioned by the party's embrace of Thatcherism. In the 2005 election while some on the left switched to vote Lib Dem, Compass backed Polly Toynbee's "clothes peg" strategy – pinch your nose and vote Labour to keep the Tories out. It may yet prove premature to write Brown off. But Lawson's intervention symbolises, I think, that the "soft" left has given up any hope it might have had for progressive change under Brown. It now faces the task of building a new progressive movement for the post-Brown era. One issue the Compass group has so far largely avoided is the national question. Might the new issue of its journal Renewal, with a contribution from OK's own Jon Bright, be a harbinger of things to come?





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