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Compass is described on its website as "the influential left of centre pressure group".[1] The website states, "The organisation is run by an annually elected Management Committee and relevant officers to oversee the actions of Compass".[2] Compass chairman Neal Lawson was one of the L's in the lobby group LLM Communications who were involved in the Labour Party's 'Lobbygate' scandal in 1998.[3][4]


Jonathon Rutherford describes the formation of Compass in 2005:

Shortly after the 2005 general election, the pressure group Compass assembled more than 100 academics and policymakers as part of its programme for renewal. It drew on think-tanks, its own membership and networks of scholars including many associated with the journals Renewal and Soundings . It has been one of the most systematic and rigorous attempts in recent decades to rethink and renew a democratic Left politics of freedom, equality and solidarity.[5]

Compass Conference 2006

According to a report from Paul de Rooij the Compass 2006 conference was designed to discuss ways to reinvigorate a Labour Party who did not expect to win the next election. The conference began with speeches from Neal Lawson, Derek Simpson and Ed Balls. According to the report “Participants were then given a form wherein they could enter their three main concerns, and a compilation of these would be the basis for the impending Compass manifesto”. A debate about nuclear power followed and De Rooij argues that “the reaction from some of the participants was that the conference felt like a "top-down" exercise organized by people who had been responsible for alienating them from politics early in the new Labour government after the 1997 election”.[6] Amongst the think tanks attending the conference were Democratiya, Engage, and the Euston Manifesto who according to De Rooij had a single issue focus, the issue being “defence of Israel”. Seminars included “The UN's responsibility to protect - how can we prevent another Rwanda?" and "Human Security: A new approach to Foreign Policy". The original Compass manifesto was composed of the results of the 2006 conference. [7]

Opening Plenary speeches

Compass Conference 2009

The Compass 2009 conference was entitled “No Turning Back: Visions, policies and campaigns for the good society,”. According to Paul Mitchell “Speaker after speaker described how deep the economic crisis has become and how far support for the Labour Party had collapsed”. Mitchell’s account of the conference showed that the participants argued that there could be no “turning back” to neo-liberal free market policies. Mitchell describes how this acted as “a preamble to insisting that there was no possible socialist alternative”. He demonstrated this by pointing to the title of a seminar sponsored by the Tribune group, which was entitled, “What type of capitalism do we want now?” John Hilary of War on Want argued that:

”Britain had been in the forefront of trade liberalisation and deregulation, which had given more power to corporations and it, more than any other country, had pushed for privatisation and used aid money to force it on the world’s poor. Labour had sided with oppressors against the oppressed, particularly in Palestine where the government had “rewarded” Israeli governments “every step of the way” with arms deals and preferential trade arrangements”.

The conference included speeches by Harriet Harman, Caroline Lucas and Neal Lawson. Lawson told the conference, “We’re in a mess. It’s the end of the road for New Labour.” Mitchell concluded that:

”The miserable response by Compass confirms that that there is no possibility of a left-wing opposition developing within Labour’s ranks that in any way sets out to defend the interests of working people”.[8]

London Mayoral Contest 2010

Ben Folley of Compass signed an open letter to the Labour Party arguing that they should not select a London mayoral candidate for the 2010 election who had supported the Iraq war. The letter read:

The war in Iraq has done so much to rupture public trust in the Labour party, we believe it would be a retrograde step for Labour not to select a candidate for mayor of London who opposed the war. Labour's backing for the war caused millions to be alienated from the party and ruptured our relations with voters in communities who had always previously shown strong support for Labour. Selecting a candidate who supported the war against a candidate who opposed it would send the wrong signal to Londoners.[9]

Labour Leadership Race 2010

In June 2010 the five candidates for the Labour Party leadership, Ed Balls, Diane Abbott, Ed Milliband, David Milliband and Andy Burnham, made speeches at a compass event in Glasgow.[10]

People 2006-2007

Neal Lawson, Chair | Meg Russell, Vice Chair | Mark Cooke, Treasurer | Gavin Hayes, National Organiser | Zoe Williams, Campaigns Officer (joined July 2006) | Jon Trickett, Campaign Manager for the 'Choose Change'[11] | Jon Cruddas MP [12] | Helen Jackson | Colin Crouch | Miranda Grell | Willie Sullivan Compass Scotland | Alan Finlayson Compass Wales | Dan Hodges (co-opted) | Chuka Umunna (co-opted)

People 2010

Neal Lawson (Chair) | Sue Goss (Vice Chair) | Mark Cooke (Treasurer) | Meg Russell | Chuka Umunna | Sam Tarry | Jenna Khalfan | Willie Sullivan (Scottish Rep) | Ben Folley | Gemma Tumelty (co-opted) | Joy Johnson (co-opted) | Jon Cruddas MP (Parliamentary Rep); Andy Howell (co-opted) | Noel Hatch (Compass Youth) | Matthew Hall (Welsh Rep) | David Ritter (co-opted) | Gavin Hayes is the General Secretary of Compass, he also serves the committee as its Secretary but as a full-time member of staff does not have voting rights.[13]

Analysts or policy researchers


Party Conference Fringe Events

Green Party 2014

  • 5th September
Flooded Out: why did Greens fail to gain from public anxiety? Speakers: Caroline Lucas MP, Neal Lawson, Rebecca Johnson, Rupert Read and Molly Scott Cato.

Labour Party 2014

  • 23rd September
How can Labour build a good society? Speakers: Lisa Nandy MP, Jon Cruddas MP, Clive Lewis, Polly Toynbee and John Harris.

Liberal Democrats 2014

  • 5th October
Votes vs Values: Did we get it right in 2010? Where to strike the balance in 2015? Speakers: Neal Lawson, Alistair Carmichael MP, Adrian Sanders MP and Allegra Stratton, chair: Linda Jack.


Compass - direction for the democratic left
Southbank House
Black Prince Road
London SE1 7SJ
t: +44 (0)20 7463 0633
m: +44 (0)7900 195591
Contact: Gavin Hayes

London Compass Conference

Compass Conference Program (17 June 2006)
Compass Conference 2006 -- some impressions

Compass Materials



  1. Home page, Compass website, accessed 19 April 2009
  2. About Compass, Compass website, accessed 19 April 2009
  3. Greg Palast, LobbyGate: "There are 17 people that count. To say that I am intimate with every one of them is the understatement of the century", Greg Palast: Journalism and Film, 5-July-1998
  4. Greg Palast, Brown's Fixer Explains How It's Done: Jon Mendelsohn and the Secret Tape, Greg Palast, accessed Feb 2009
  5. Jonathon Rutherford, Labour's lost love, Time Higher Education, 22-September-2006, Accessed 17-July-2010
  6. Paul De Rooij, Compass - New Labour morphs into new New Labour, Spinwatch, 20-June-2006
  7. Paul De Rooij, Compass - New Labour morphs into new New Labour, Spinwatch, 20-June-2006
  8. Paul Mitchell, Britain: Labour’s Compass group plans its efforts to save capitalism, World Socialist Website, 18-June-2009
  9. Ben Foley, Labour lines up for leadership and London mayor, The Guardian, 28-May-2010
  10. News, Labour bring leadership race to Scotland, The Express, 14-June-2010
  11. Compass email 30 October 2007
  12. Compass email 30 October 2007 states Cruddas will run on Compass campaign in Parliament and that he has co-authored an article with Neal Lawson.
  13. Compass, About Compass, Compass, Accessed 17-July-2010
  14. Compass, ThinkPiece 9, Accessed 27-March-2009
  15. Compass,ThinkPiece 10, Accessed 27-March-2009