Sheffield Compass is one of the many local groups formed by supporters of Compass: for an equal, democratic and sustainable future.
Our aim is to engage the three progressive parties in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire to publicly commit to supporting candidates who stand for the five key principles of the Common Platform (see below), and in particular to work with them to target four Tory held seats: Penistone and Stocksbridge (Sheffield), Don Valley, Rother Valley and High Peak (Derbyshire).
We run two zoom meetings a month, for the five person steering group comprised of Labour, Greens and one independent, and for local supporters. There are 30+ on our mailing list of whom about a dozen who attend meetings. We do not know how many of these are Compass members, nor do we know how many Compass members locally are not in touch with us.
Over the last year we have pursued three issues which we believe feed into Compass’ national Win as One strategy which aims to pinpoint the progressive candidate best placed to defeat the Tory:
- Common Ground
- Targetting Tory Held Seats
- Political Reform
Locally, our aim is to engender a collaborative, less tribal atmosphere amongst the progressive parties in the run up to the general election.
The first issue is to demonstrate the common ground on policy between the parties, building on the Compass website analysis in We Divide, They Conquer. Based on published papers and press reports, we have compiled a detailed Common Platform, headed by five key principles:
1. To take decisive measures to reduce inequality in the UK – and abroad, wherever the UK can be effective.
2. To make public services more effective at serving the public and to ensure they are properly funded. (health, utilities, social services, transport, education, local government, art and culture)
3. To take firm measures to tackle the climate crisis and to reduce the resulting damage to human and environmental health.
4. To commit to democratic renewal including:
- a form of PR, to be decided by consultation processes that command the public’s trust,
- reform of the House of Lords,
- decentralisation of powers
- strengthening the Electoral Commission.
Our next step is to use the Common Platform to approach the local leadership of the three progressive parties to discuss signing up to a shared policy platform that distinguishes us from the Conservatives (although not necessarily individual Conservative supporters who may prefer our policies). We urge Compass, as part of the Win as One campaign, to attempt to sign up national figures in the three parties to a similar platform.
Targetting Tory Held Seats
The second issue is to explore with the local parties their priorities for the general election. We began with two events during the Sheffield Festival of Debate – one on-line, the other face to face – that attracted members of the three parties from four constituencies that are currently Tory held: High Peak, Penistone and Stocksbridge, Rother Valley and Don Valley. These are the local targets for opponents of the Tories – and the targets for Sheffield Compass too.
It is worth noting that Sheffield Hallam, currently held by Labour, may be a Lib Dem target making it one of the few constituencies where the two parties are in direct contention. This rivalry is linked to the decision in 2021 by the Lib Dems on Sheffield Council to go into opposition against the Labour-Green ruling group.
Some outcomes from these meetings and follow up discussions with Labour and the Lib Dems:
- Penistone & Stockbridge: although the Lib Dems have the strongest local (councillor) representation in the areas of Sheffield and Barnsley that this constituency sits across, they are unlikely to target this seat and may not even stand a candidate. Lib Dem efforts will go into winning Tory held seats in the south west and maybe Sheffield Hallam.
- High Peak: this is clearly a target for Labour – Tory majority 590 and a progressive majority in 2019. The combined Labour and Lib Dem vote outnumbered the Tories, another tragedy. A Compass member is interested in the scope for vote pairing with Lib Dems. He believes that the Lib Dems might be persuaded to cooperate here in High Peak in exchange for neighbouring Hazel Grove, which could be an easy target. (Unforgiveably he was expelled from the Labour Party for exploring these sorts of deals.)
- Rother Valley & Don Valley: the combined Tory/Brexit vote in Don Valley was 57% and 58% in Rother Valley so this will be uphill for Labour, although if the Brexit/Reform Party stood again and the Lib Dems also stood, Tory votes could switch to them benefitting Labour in both seats.
Finally, a point about handling talks with the parties. There is a lot of mutual antipathy and our experience is that we have to let people vent their resentments before we can engage meaningfully. The pressure of a general election, of course, could make it easier for the parties to recognize electoral realities.
The third issue is political reform. We have run two events on PR, the first led by Talk Shop’s Perry Walker on the pros and cons of different systems, the second led by Stuart White on the political and constitutional practicalities of implementing electoral reform. A firm conclusion from these events is that the progressive parties should commit to PR reform, tying it to the need for improvements in public services and the tax and benefits system. The exact details of the reform can be left until after the general election. In the meantime, we urge Compass nationally to respond to Gordon Brown’s report on constitutional change with a clear call on the three parties – and individual candidates – to commit to electoral reform as part of their election manifesto.