Compass, the left of centre campaigning group, has been grappling with Brexit – with our help. The management committee has favoured a position of neutrality so that Compass could act as a bridge between leavers and remainers. Some members wanted it to choose sides and to advocate remaining, or at least a parliamentary vote or second referendum on the issue.
Talk Shop proposed a consultation event coupled with a survey of the membership. Three hundred people took part in the survey, revealing a massive majority in favour of remain, and one hundred of these volunteered to take part in the consultation event. Of these, a balanced group of twenty were invited to take part.
The event pinpointed precisely the dilemma. For the management committee, especially given that Compass lacks the resources to wage an effective pro-remain campaign, the best use of its influence and networks is to build bridges between progressives whatever their view of the EU and the UK’s membership and to press on with developing a common platform to underpin a progressive alliance. For strongly pro-remain members, Brexit is a national emergency that demands a clear response from all progressives, including Compass.
So what was the value of the event? First, that people with a wide range of passionately held convictions were able to debate the issues in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Two members announced that they had come around to supporting the management committee view. Second, that both sides had a clearer understanding of each other’s views. Third, (we hope) the event has set a precedent for a more active engagement between the management committee and the supporters.
For us, as facilitators, the event underlined the importance of Compass actively promoting dialogue between leavers and remainers. That is a job that everyone agrees needs doing but nobody is doing.