Here, we publish blog posts written by Compass Northern Devon members, supporters and friends. If you would like to publish your thoughts, please email us your ideas for consideration.

Our political Tribes by Peter Jones

Read Peter’s take on our tribal political landscape HERE>


Torridge and Tavistock Hustings held on 11th June 2024 - Report by Teresa Tinsley

See Teresa’s report HERE>


Petroc ‘Question Time’ Event – Friday 1st December 2023 - A report by Ricky Knight

Cllr Ricky Knight reports on the interesting range of questions asked by students at the college HERE>


Levelling up? or Knocking down? by John Patrinos

John examines the impact of the government’s “levelling up”agenda and asks if it isn’t really knocking things down HERE>


Dentistry – we shouldn’t need to grin and bear it by John Patrinos

The current crisis in dentistry has been a long time coming and represents a national disgrace. John explains more HERE>

How brown is your water? by John Patrinos

The scandal of dirty water continues and, with a local MP in denial about the extent of the problem, what are the chances of clean water any time soon? John Patrinos has more HERE>


Musical chairs yet again by John Patrinos

Rishi Sunak’s recent reshuffle exposes a serious lack of talent and ability in government. He’s even had to bring in a bloke called Dave. Read more HERE>


People Demand Democracy by Jennifer Jones

The somewhat shocking and unanticipated (at least on my part) arrival to prominence on the electoral reform scene of ‘PEOPLE DEMAND DEMOCRACY’ at last week’s Labour Party Conference, when a representative of the group showered Keir Starmer with glitter just as he was about to start his leader’s address and held him captive for a few seconds before being dragged from the stage, is a new development to the cause and considerably ups the ante.  

It must have been anticipated by them that this act of protest would be capable of stealing the headlines even though in execution it certainly exceeded the organisation’s claim that they are prepared to involve themselves in acts of civil disobedience to achieve electoral reforms.  The protester himself has stated that he regrets manhandling Keir Starmer and has been charged with assault as a result.

The context is this. Before each of the Leader’s keynote speeches both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer had been sent the same open letter from ‘People Demand Democracy’ demanding that they commit to holding:"new national elections with a proportional voting system" and to "set up a House of Citizens (to replace the House Of Lords) within six months of getting into office".  Needless to say, neither party leader gave it any attention at all.  Until, that is, they were forced to.

The fact that Keir Starmer rather than Rishi Sunak was targeted is all too obvious.  It is his party membership, his constituency parties and the Labour affiliated trade unions that are demanding the very same reforms.  It has progressed within the Labour movement as far as approving them at the last two party conferences, as well as having passed them at the level of the National Policy Forum.  It is stated as a consensus Party view held in common and further enshrined after Starmer himself commissioned Gordon Brown’s extensive report to prepare for them as being fundamental to the UK’s constitutional future.

I am writing this afterword as it seems to me this new situation begs several new questions.  Not only as to whether civil disobedience is justified in campaigning for electoral reform when that seems to be a new reality, and also in being interested to hear your views as to whether you think such tactics are productive or counterproductive.

And, to acknowledge that the various campaigns for Fair Votes in a Fairer System of which ours is one have now become, perhaps controversially, entangled within the realms of direct action.  

In your opinion do groups such as ‘Just Stop Oil’ and ‘People Demand Democracy’ end up, despite their sincere commitment, further marginalising debate by antagonising and agitating outside of normal social structures?  Or can they bring issues to the forefront of public consciousness and be instrumental in bringing about change?

Jennifer Jones
October 2023


Is Labour primed yet and ready to go? by Jennifer Jones

It is not a fanciful assertion to believe that much of the Labour Party is already of the opinion that Proportional Representation is where “levelling up” should really start.

The vast majority of the Labour movement has for some time and in ever growing numbers been asking the leadership the following question. What could do more to establish a true levelling up agenda than to change to a fairer voting system in our democracy and to make every eligible citizen’s vote count in order to bring about a renewal of political engagement across the U.K.?

A fairer redistribution of economic prosperity should not be the only stated aim under the umbrella of levelling up of society. It must have a democratic element to it as well.  

By reforming our electoral system to P.R. and devolving powers more widely across all the nations of the United Kingdom a resurgent interest and participation in the democratic process would surely follow.   Many more voters will feel empowered enough to engage in driving forward a meaningful levelling up against inequalities across their own regions and not depend on central government to dictate the terms.  

This clamour for change comes from the grass roots of society and the Labour movement reflects that outcry and, indeed, is spearheading it.

Within the heart of Labour this is not a militant inspired, faction driven left wing disruptive groundswell.  It is from across the entire party – its membership, the local constituency parties and now the unions.  It is acknowledged in Labour Party official documents that 
“the flaws in our current voting system are contributing to the distrust and alienation we see in politics” and that reform has “unimaginable levels of support”.

So, what does Labour’s executive have to gain by appearing to impede reform and deny its members their voice for vital democratic changes to our voting system and constitution other than the argument that securing power has to happen first before these matters can be considered?   They cannot continue this false state of affairs that condems FPTP whilst not promising change.  This has already become an untenable, vacuous and wholly unconvincing position.  Keir Starmer’s front bench flies in the face everyday of the National Policy Forum’s endorsement of the movement’s wishes.

Gordon Brown’s Commission on the U.K.’s Constitutional Future (sub-titled “Renewing our Democracy  and Rebuilding our Economy”)  did exactly what is advocated here by his beloved party.  It aligned new economic and institutional structures and further devolution of powers to reform the social contract so that a new, modern, more democratic state could be born.  

The demands have been persistently growing over decades, ever since the Blair years reforms that kick started devolution of powers and introducing P.R. in the election of members to both the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies.  It is a momentum that cannot be stifled without destroying the Labour movement itself. There will be consequences of such destructive force and schisms that cannot be assuaged if the members are ignored for much longer.

Aa recently as 16 June 2023 Labour List stated that “Electoral Reform has gone from niche to consensus view – LABOUR MUST BACK PR”.  

We shall see more of it at October’s Conference no doubt.

And, what is our role in all of this?  By adding our non-party aligned campaigning voice to

the debate  we are supporting, encouraging and arguing the case for wholesale change.

We have come together from a conviction that the time is now ripe.  The alternative is yet more decline, further disillusion and deeper despair.  This cannot be contemplated.

A new great, Reform Act is surely just round the corner.

Jennifer Jones is a member of the Compass Northern Devon Steering Group
(September 2023)


Where should Compass be leading us? A personal view by Richard Toller

Here we are, a maximum of 16 months from a General Election; Compass Northern Devon has been in existence for about 2 years. Have we achieved anything, and what should we be working towards now? My apologies for returning to a theme I wrote about last month!

The reasoning for my personal engagement with Compass ND has always been:

  • Society today is not delivering for most of the population, so

  • We need government that represents, to the best degree possible, all citizens, so

  • We need (among other things) a voting system that ensures we elect a representative range of politicians, but

  • We can only really bring about change under the current system, so

  • Similar but not identical political groupings need to co-operate (only) until needed change is effected in Westminster

Yes, our current voting system is unfair, but mainly because it allows so much unfairness in society generally. The principal defenders (and beneficiaries) of this skewed voting system have always been the Conservative party and its backers, whose core philosophy has always been “one dollar (pound) one vote” rather than “one person one vote”; the combination of massive and opaque Tory funding, partisan press ownership and First Past The Post itself has ensured that this is mostly what they got. I believe that a fair voting system (PR) is the absolute precondition of a fairer society.

Two years ago, the Conservatives looked pretty comfortable, both locally and nationally; Compass ND’s mission was to try and bring together enough support to remove one or both of our local Tory MPs; while this would be an end in itself, a hung parliament – which this worked towards - would be exactly what was needed to bring electoral reform into play. Both North Devon and TWD could play a vital part in this by chipping away at the Conservative majority

The picture today looks very different; at the next General Election, the Conservatives look almost certain to lose swathes of seats, and Labour looks very likely to gain an absolute majority; there is still a possibility of a hung parliament, but the decline of the SNP makes this more remote. While Labour members and trade unions have swung in favour of PR, the Labour leadership is opposing it; Starmer and his team may think it is a campaigning distraction, they may think it is a future negotiating chip to retain, they may just prefer alternating absolute power with the Tories; who knows?

Anyway, the battleground for PR is no longer in our area; paradoxically what will decide whether we have a hung parliament, and thus a shot at PR, is the SNP and or the Conservatives doing better against Labour than currently expected in Scotland and the Red Wall. While most, probably all, of us would like to see the two local Conservatives ejected, it will probably have zero impact on the electoral calculus of getting PR.

Over two years we have tried to foster co-operation between progressive parties; we have argued that co-operation and co-option (open or behind closed doors) could be much more effective than “squeezing”; we have argued for an “unity” candidate; we have argued for give and take between local elections and Westminster. Sadly, with a few honourable exceptions, our calls have fallen on deaf ears in local party structures.

In my view, Compass should now focus 100% on promoting PR and voter engagement, particularly among young people. This was very well put in a message I got from one of our supporters recently:

“Maybe the way forward is to put efforts into educating young voters about the state of NHS, corruption in politics etc through media that resonates with them - TikTok, Snapchat etc with clear factual messages and the urgency for them to step up for their future and vote to make change. I would like to see the word politics replaced by something such as 'life choices' in more discussions/adverts etc so that it is relatable to everyday living. It would also be easier to challenge people who say 'I don't do politics' 'It is what it is' and 'I can't be bothered' because very few would reply that way if they felt they were handing their life choices and destiny to the bunch we currently have in power! Everyone 'does life' so everyone should vote. Politics sounds like it is complicated and only for the educated so can put people off, but voting is for everyone and that is my opinion, the wrong people currently vote in larger numbers than the right people. Engagement of new voters might be more fruitful than convincing current Tory voters to change.”

Richard Toller
August 2023


Oh, what might have been? by Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones reflects on the resignation of Caroline Lucas, who has been the Green Party’s sole representative at Westminster since being first elected in 2010, and the difference that Proportional Representation makes in Scotland, where the Scottish Parliament has 7 Green MSPs.

Caroline Lucas has often been a lone voice in tirelessly championing environmental policies and through hard work and dedication she has achieved a commendable level of influence in a Parliament which has been both slow and reluctant to adopt any of them. The voters of Brighton Pavilion have, nevertheless, re-elected her with increased majorities at every General Election and have been unique in their preference out of all the English constituencies.

Under our First Past The Post electoral system, her “breakthrough” in representation of a different politics will not have progressed in 14 years and next year might well be nullified altogether when she stands down.

At the same time, in the Scottish Assembly there are currently 7 Green MSPs who are helping set the agenda in all areas of the legislative work of the Parliament through power sharing and who actually run two of its Ministries.

What a contrasting picture! In a legislature of 129 MSPs, where 73 are elected by First Past The Post (FPTP) and the rest by Proportional Representation (PR) the Green “breakthrough” has been progressively evolving and is now enjoying significant success.

And, there lies the difference. In Westminster 1:650 and in Scotland 7:129.

In General Elections for the Westminster Parliament every elector gets one vote and the winner in each of the constituencies takes all even when winning by only a few votes.

In elections for the Scottish Assembly every voter gets two votes – one for their 73 constituencies (FPTP) and one for their regions under PR of the additional member system.

Pure speculation, of course, but would Caroline Lucas have had to spend 14 years (by the time of the next general election) in the political wilderness and without the solidarity of mutual support and shared purpose of any fellow Green MPs if we had even a partial Proportional Representation electoral system?

Sadly, we will never know because she has had enough of going it alone. She is having to watch in her final year as an MP whilst this current government is threatening to backtrack on its commitments to net zero in order, paradoxically given the state of the world’s climate catastrophes, to gain traction with reactionary voters to try to win the next election.

And, the politics of the United Kingdom Parliament whilst applauding her valiant efforts when waving her goodbye will settle back down again to its traditional ways of doing things and before very long will be able to forget she had ever existed.

Unless, that is, people like us at Compass Northern Devon continue to fight for the justice Caroline never received and work towards what she and the voters of Brighton Pavilion kept faith with – A FAIRER VOTING SYSTEM OF FAIRER REPRESENTATION THROUGH PR.

Jennifer Jones
August 2023


Here is our rundown of the 2023 District election results:

Torridge District Council

After the May elections, the Liberal Democrats have emerged as the largest political grouping on Torridge District Council, quadrupling their seats from two to eight and overtaking the Conservatives, who now have just six. In fourth and fifth places, the Greens now have four seats and Labour two. Independent councillors now number sixteen, down from nineteen.

The biggest losers were the Conservatives. In Bideford North, Peter Christie for the Greens and Trevor Johns for the Lib Dems ousted the sitting Tory member, Dermot McGeough, who only recently won a County Council seat. And in Bideford South, Labour’s David Brenton and the Independent Simon Inch resoundingly defeated the two Britain First candidates. Because of a shortage of candidates, and perhaps, too, some small influence we had as Compass ND, the progressive parties were not competing with each other except in a very few seats.  Only one ward, Great Torrington, saw the three parties up against each other in competition for the 3 seats which were all taken by Lib Dems. However, in Winkleigh – a one seat ward - Labour and the Lib Dems split the vote and allowed the the sitting Conservative to win through. And in Northam a plethora of independent candidates saw just one of the 3 seats go to a progressive candidate – Wendy Lo-Vel for the Greens, with the Conservatives and a right-wing independent taking the other two and the Lib Dem losing out.

The most spectacular result was obtained in Shebbear and Langtree by Compass ND member Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin, who is leader of the Liberal Democrat group. After an energetic and determined campaign, she and her running mate Chris Wheatley won both seats with 64% of votes cast and the highest turnout of all 16 wards.  

The results show there is much more to be done to encourage the parties to work together to squeeze the still-tenacious Conservative vote.

North Devon District Council

In NDDC the Liberal Democrats came out on top, securing 22 out of 42 seats, and majority control. The co-operation between centre/left parties that Compass ND had been arguing for in these elections, and which we felt would have been a good basis towards working together in the next General Election, was at best patchy; where progressive parties were not standing against each other, it was often due to a lack of good candidates rather than as a positive communal strategy.

The final tally of councillors was LibDems 22 (21), Conservatives 7 (12), Labour 0, (0), Green 3 (2), Independent 10 (7) – 2019 figures in brackets. Of the Independents, 1 was elected as a LibDem in the previous election, and one as a Conservative. The other independents, range from centre/right to centre/left broadly in line with the make up of the council, but without party affiliations.

Ian Roome, the LibDem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate is now Leader of the Council and leader of the LibDem group, succeeding David Worden.

In terms of proportionality to votes cast, the LibDems are somewhat over-represented, the Conservatives underrepresented (unlike previously), as are the Greens and Labour. If NDDC was somehow elected by PR (and we understand the importance of councillors representing their wards), the LibDems would have had 16 seats, the Conservatives 8, Labour 3, Greens 6 and Independents 9 (rounding up and down as appropriate).

As Compass, on a national level, we are fighting to ensure that representation in parliament more closely reflects voter choice; while accepting that local councils are a bit different, it seems a pity that the 3,003 Labour voters have no-one promoting their political views on the council – particularly as they had one really excellent candidate. This is all food for thought!


Threats to our civil liberties by Jennifer Jones

Listing the threats and losses to our civil liberties since 2016 ruptured the United Kingdom into little more than jeering factions is a sobering and sorrowful business.

The Conservative Party, aided and abetted by Nigel Farage’s many political incarnations, have conjoined to create a society riven with division, discontent, and economic strife.

And, in its wake comes an unhelmed government distrustful of its restive citizens.

After the years of austerity have weakened the social fabric and endangered our welfare state and public health system comes the next stage in repressions of liberties and self-determination.

Without any mandate the current Home Office, now administered by an extreme right-wing ideologue lacking any compassion or humanity, is intent on eroding our ancient rites to peacefully protest, to remain enfranchised by simply being on an electoral roll and to criminalise investigative journalists in their determination to expose corruption and political wrongdoing under the terms of the proposed National Security Bill.

The introduction of a compulsory voter photo ID system at a time when mistrust of politicians is at almost endemic levels is a potentially disastrous disenfranchisement of particularly the young and the poor. It is a cynical manipulation of the freedoms of those identified as being less inclined to vote Conservative.  Regardless of the certainty that this marginalisation of deprived groups in society will lead to further unrest when denied its customary liberties, this government ploughs on wrecking it all.

The only safeguard of sorts is the majority liberal tendency of the House of Lords to reject and amend the extremes of the proposals, despite themselves being corrupted as a body through the massing of party donors and dubious, unworthy characters like Evgeny Lebedev and Michelle Mone.

Central to the work of Compass Northern Devon is the restitution of our civil liberties and customary rites.  A written CHARTER OF DEMOCRATIC REFORMS demanding PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION; A LEGAL CONSTITUTION setting out the separation and limits to power of our democratic institutions and the fulfilment of NET ZERO statutes to guarantee our human rights to a safe, clean environment and mitigation of human produced warming of the planet.

Our resistance against the imposition of more and more repressive measures curtailing our freedom to protest against injustices and to elect our MPs without fear or hindrance by a government themselves derailed from democratic legitimacy is surely the most important that we can embark upon at this time.


How can we begin to reorientate and correct the series of recent democratic “mistakes” we have apparently agreed to in our society? by Jennifer Jones

We can begin by acknowledging them whilst showing an understanding of why they happened.  For example, since 2016 Brexit was a mistake and self-harming;  attempts to undermine and indeed flout the rule of law have been mistakes by our democratically elected government; future attempts to weaken our human and workers’ rights and civil liberties will be mistakes and yet are being proposed.

At Compass Northern Devon we are campaigning for the reconstruction of our democratic machinery to address these errors of judgement within society by appealing to everyone’s sense of fairness.  The recognition that fairness can bring about consensus and heal division is commonly held by the majority of opposing viewpoints when rationalising ways of moving on from untenable situations.

And, that could be the key.  Maximising fairness in our democracy begins with how we exercise the right to vote.  Challenging the notion that First Past The Post gives us fairness is our starting point.  The argument is that, despite it being invariably on a minority of our votes, it gives us political stability and known representatives in Parliament.  Our current government with a huge majority proves this untrue by perpetuating chaos and dishonesty and shackling our representatives through party loyalty to follow like sheep and condoning, until breaking point, descent into criminality, proven corruption and an attempt to illegally prorogue itself.  

So, water under the bridge and whilst remaining true to our core beliefs of an open society, let’s start persuading friends, family and fellow citizens how we think beneficial changes to our democracy can be brought about.  

The introduction of Proportional Representation and a Written Constitution to create fairness at the ballot box and the certainty that we will live under the Rule of Law are the ideas that can bring us back from perpetual division and ever increasing conflict.  We all believe in fairness and hold an abhorrence of injustice in common.  These can transcend differences that on the surface look insurmountable.  This common ground can provide the starting point to move forward together on the work of modernising and safeguarding our democracy.

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