The Big Tent is over; it’s time for a campsite of lots of little tents

June 14, 2009 11:03 am

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No turning backBy Alex Smith

I just thought I’d go over some of the key remarks from Compass’ No Turning Back Conference yesterday, which I thought was a very productive and inspiring debate. Like Tom Ogg, I do feel, however, that the day could have ended with the framing of a plan of action.

* BILLY HAYES, General Secretary, Communications Workers Union

“If we agree on the failure of neo-liberalism, we have a platform for progress.”

“Only the top 1% of the population have experienced a faster growth as a result of neo-liberalism.”

“We need to ignore the squeals on the new top rate of tax – it’s a step towards a more progressive tax system.”

“Let’s start talking about scrapping ID cards and saving that £56 billion, let’s start talking about scrapping the waste of Trident.”

“Voting reform is not just an issue for the chattering classes.”

“Nick Griffin is the Hannibal Lector of British politics”.

* HARRIET HARMAN, Deputy Leader, The Labour Party

“We need to frame the next election not as an election for a fourth term, but as the first term after the global recession.”

“We need to remember the imperative of those we represent who need Labour to be in power.”

“We draw together the progressive promise.”

“There is deep anger amongst Labour councillors and MEPs who lost their seats because of MPs’ expenses.”

“We won’t shrink from the debate about Europe, for our economy, our environment and our security.”

“Labour is on the side of the person who struggles to make ends meet, who fears for their job, whose housing is not good enough.”

“There should be a sharing of power as well as a sharing of wealth.”

“We need to fight on a new vision for the future of Britain: w new economic and social order based on fairness and equality.”

“Labour is inclusive of all and we have a universal approach – but the Tories voted against the Equalities Bill.”

“We will be bold in our reform of democracy, we will be bold in our action on the economy, we will be bold in the determination to bring about a more equal society.”

* JOHN HEALY, Director, War on Want

“The Labour government has listened and heard the full depth of anger, but has it heard the depth of the desire for profound and radical change?”

“We can’t paper over the cracks with fiscal stimulus or banking bailouts – we need a full change in our economic structure.”

“Our capital and trade must be for the pubic benefit, not private profit.”

“In spite of being founded by Harold Wilson, War on Want finds itself in opposition to nearly everything this Labour government has done.”

“We need public services that are affordable, accessible, high quality. The Laboour government, however, continues to push for privatisation.”

“On Palestine, Labour sided with the oppressor against the oppressed.”

“We need a union of what’s needed for tomorrow, based on social justice, environmentalism, decent jobs for all workers.”

* CAROLINE LUCAS, Leader, The Green Party

“We need an economy that puts people first, not big business.”

“In the SouthEast heartlands of New Labour – the party came fifth. Tony Blair’s big tent is well and truly over. Now we need a campsite of smaller tents.”

“We need not quantitative growth, but qualitative development.”

“And we need a political system that encourages this type of cooperation – so we should have a referendum on Proportional Representation, and it should be binding.”

“New Labour has lost its way – one of the most dmaning statistics for this government is the continued and widening gap between the rich and the poor.”

“Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Labour has become the Party of war, privatisation and attacks on civil liberties.”

* NEAL LAWSON, Chair, Compass

“It’s not Labour’s style of leadership that’s wrong, it’s that the party is not open, not collegiate.”

“It’s not about the personality of the PM – it’s the politics that are wrong, we’re going in the wrong direction.”

“It’s not our job to second guess or decode what the leadership wants. It’s their job to lead us.”

“We’ve done the wrong thing, spoken for the wrong people. Yes, we want lots of Labour MPS, but we want Labour MPs with the right heart.”

“It’s the end of the road for New Labour and a massive wasted opportunity – and we need to understand why it went wrong.”

“We stopped being the party of social democracy. No, we’re not anti-business, but business can only succeed in the rich soil of society.”

“We do have to regulate the markets’ rules of operation.”

“Capitalism will not deliver equality and sustainability.”

“We are social democrats, not market democrats.”

“The Labour party was transformed 15 years ago – and it can be transformed again.”

“People have power: The London Citizens forced a Tory mayor to enact a living wage, not because he believes it, but because of civic pressure.”

“So I could tell you all to prepare for power, but you already have it.”

“We have a new politics here in this hall. This is what the future of progressive politics looks like: Green, Lib Dems, Unions, Faith Groups…”

* SEMINAR: LABOUR v TORY: Who are the real progressives?

PHILLIP BLOND, political academic:

“The working classes have been disempowered by the state through vertical relationships: public services are provided, not empowered.”

“The left has been the real right wing.”

“The state-market is an oligarchy and fundamentally uncollective.”

“Social Democracy is in crisis because it thinks the state represents all wills.”

“Social Conservatism is more radical than anything else we’ve seen.”

“As a Conservative, I’m against any economy that proletarianises.”

“Out systems have been destroyed by making all education the same.”

SUNDER KATWALA, General Secretary, The Fabian Society:

“Labour doesn’t own progressive politics. A lot of progressive policy is outside party politics.”

“But the Tory party is not a force for pogress. It’s primarily a force for conserving.”

“The right often warns against the dangers of utopianism, the danger of the perfectionism of man.”

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was radical 60 years ago, and that was a progressive achievement of the liberal left.”

“Of course at times we;ve been illiberal, but only because we’ve not been liberal enough.”

“I don’t believe that Labour are individualists. What about the trade unions? What about the cooperative movement?”

“Red Toryism is a very exotic idea, but the Tories are only progressive insofar as they accept, rather than overturn, our change: ‘gay people, women, ethnics, let’s all get along, great, you can have a seat.'”

“OF course there have been mistakes and setbacks along the way – I’m not defending tower blocks – but the Labour party has achieved more progressive change than any other organisation, party, institution or movement, bar none.”

“New Labour, for all its timidity, has been more Labour than it’s been proud to say: on taxation of wealth, devolution, the minimum wage.”

“The Conservatives have consistently said: ‘not yet, must we really?, slow down.’ The Tory party are the enemy of progress and have historically represented the interests of the advantaged.”

“Red Toryism has no idea as radical as the independence of the bank of England or the Freedom of Information Act.”

“You need an active pursuit of classnessness.”

“If Phillip Blond didn’t exist, nor would Red Toryism.”

JOHN HARRIS, journalist:

“The Salvation Army can’t deliver public services. If Faith groups want to deliver public services, the end game is ‘OK, you can have your dole, but only if you accept Jesus into your life.”

* SEMINAR: Can Labour survive and do we want it to?

STEVE RICHARDS, journalist:

“Labour lacks a real sense of purpose and momentum. There is no sense of what Labour is for.”

“Labour is the only agent of change available to us.”

JOY JOHNSON, Compass:

“Labour will survive, and it must. But New Labour will not survive.”

PAUL THOMPSON, Renewal Journal:

“One thing is absolutely clear. New Labour is finished. It’s been a dead man walking for 5 years.”

“Compass made a mistake not to plunge the knife into Gordon Brown.”

* QUESTION TIME

POLLY TOYNBEE, journalist:

“The left is in great danger of missing our moment.”

CHUKA UMUNNA, Labour PPC for Streatham:

“I wish our cabinet ministers would shut up and get on with leading. They keep whinging ‘we don’t know what we’re for’ – well whose fault is that!?”

“We don’t just need to elect a Labour government, we need to elect a Progressive Parliament.”

I think the general theme of the day was summed up in the last session, when one delegate said:

“I’m a Compass supporter who votes Green, is a member of the Liberal Democrats and works with Labour MEPs on child poverty. I feel at home today.”

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