A report from our Spring Conference held on 27th April 2024

North Devon Compass Conference 27 April 24

Outputs from Open Space Sessions – Newsroom Write Up

NB Notes in italics come from post it notes put on the write up by conference attendees.

Elect Progressive MPs for Northern Devon – Practical Action

  • Progressive = Furthering Compass Aims

    • Labour’s stance on PR difficult

  • Open Primaries

    • Big commitment

    • National party concerns

  • Promote Tactical Voting

    • How do we know how to vote?

    • North Devon clear

    • Torridge and Tavistock less clear?

    • How will recommendations be made

    • Tactical voting sites need to be transparent

  • Newspaper letters – how to use your vote in FPTP

    • Work with local editors and write letters to promote the progressive candidate most likely to win and local radio

  • Social Media

  • Commit to help ‘Green voting Lib Dems’ or ‘Lib Dems voting Labour.  Badges or on leaflets NB Could be expelled from party

    • Help out the most likely candidates Who decides who is most likely to win?

  • Torridge – how do farmers feel?  Go and ask the NFU

  • Torridge – Compass could arrange an opinion poll to gauge who is most likely to beat the Tory MP How would a sample frame for such a poll be chosen?

Citizens Assemblies

  • Totally random selection by a professional organisation

  • Ensure they reflect all sections of society

    • Age, sex, social economic group, physical ability

    • To include:

      • Pensioners

      • Travellers

      • Homeless

      • Age 16+

  • Local, Regional, National

  • When would they be convened?

  • Communicate what they are

MP Watch

  • Non Partisan – “Truth and Integrity’ – Accountability

    • Community and planet

  • Hold MPs feet to the fire via ‘scrutiny’

  • Join 50 other national groups scrutinising:

    • Baker/Rees Mogg/ Truss/Braverman/Anderson etc

    • Follow links to ‘They work for you’

  • Set up local:

    • WhatsApp group

    • Facebook page

    • Twitter account

    • Instegram account

    • You Tube etc

  • Also via www.MPwatch.org main page:

    • Consolidate (good for finance, lobbying etc)

  • Put press release together for local press

    • Set up contacts with local journalists and local radio

  • Question – how to gain/maintain credibility if opposition is to be expected from the usual suspects?

    • Street stalls, events, fundraising

  • Meet the MP – surgery

    • Polite/forma/factual/friendly

  • Set up a ‘Cox Watch’…..please

    • Find a catchy name!  Suggestions please  “Where’s Geoffrey?’

Rebuilding Local Community

  • Facilities for groups

  • 73% of local government funding has been cut in North Devon

    • This supported ‘Link” (Support groups all gone)

  • Places to talk

  • Support for carers

  • Build neighbourhood support

  • Closures of so many committees:

    • Surestart, ‘Hawley’, Half way houses (Hyde House)

  • Awareness of each other’s needs

  • Sharing of history/life

  • How do we create safe spaces

  • All starts with saying hello to someone on the street

  • Education as part of a community

  • Expressing love

  • More control of social media (Regulations)

  • Respect/tolerace/acceptance

  • Valuing young people – how?

  • Mentality of moving from individual to community

  • Challenge overwhelming admin/HS&E etc

  • Levelling up!

  • More interaction with local MP

How Can We Get Parties to Work Together?

  • Address issues affecting young people and show how politics is the only way to make society better

  • Grass roots pressure on parties to cooperate

  • Change culture via schools etc

  • Vote swapping

  • South Devon Primary

  • Learn from other countries

  • Undercover ‘understandings’ between parties

  • Timeline

    • Cooperation – reform – better society

  • Wisdom instead of competition

  • Distrust between parties

  • Start with an issue, find young people and introduce the importance of politics

    • Justice

    • Climate

Voting Reform and PR

  • Schools – education needed

  • Arguments pro FPTP based on subjectivity, opinion and fearmongering (mostly)

  • Pro PR based on facts link to 1976 report should be included in circulated notes: I can’t find a link to the report but here is a 1976 debate in Hansard on it (SEE HERE>)

  • Compare success of possible UK PR with that of countries with a similar culture to the UK

  • PR = non adversarial, but cooperation and consensus – not us v’s them

  • Anti-PR from Labour and Conservatives because of fractures in those parties

  • ‘Goldilocks’ majorities

  • Need to get bigger parties to support PR

Motivating Youth – the Under Thirties

  • The word politics is a problem

  • Lack of hope = Why bother

  • Apathy and no interest

  • Poor role models in Parliament, at home and in the community

  • Sport needs more local facilities

  • Legislation to prevent speaking out

  • Communication – lack of political knowledge

  • Too complicated….too many lies

  • Poverty and insecurity plus young families

  • Identify required and voting slip

  • Possibilities

  • Motivated by key issues = direct action

  • Using social media more positively

  • Sow the seeds of information:

    • Snapchat

    • Instagram

    • TikTok

  • Registered = membership

  • Produce TikTok videos of:

    • Climate Change

    • 2GBT (No idea what this is!)

    • Brexit

    • Future

    • Mental health

    • Sewage

    • Job Security

  • Honest + Trust + Influence

Moving forward

  • Universal Income

  • Affordable accommodation

  • Syllabus to go into schools – universal

  • Politics in the context of their lives

  • Citizenship, curriculum, topics, letter to parents

  • Stripping away the parties image

  • What happens if you don’t do politics

  • Who to vote for

  • Respect – talking to young people

  • Stopping misconceptions

  • Talk in the street

  • Policies not parties

  • Talk to your neighbours/parents

  • Raise awareness

  • Listen and ask for ideas

  • Workshop model to take to schools and take something away

  • Voices Heard – interviewing young people

    • Open Space facilitates in schools

    • Creative workshops to help young people express themselves

    • Getting people to tell their stories

    • Intergenerational learning

    • Homes, Health, Hope

What Limits to the Power of the Executive?

  • No major funding changes

  • Declarations of war – use of military force

  • Reduced use of statutory instruments

  • Reduce/remove whips

  • Maintain independent judiciary

  • PR

  • No breaking international law/treaties

  • Fully independent civil service

  • General election when Prime Minister changes

  • Leveson 2 and no foreign ownership of the media

  • An effective OFCOM


  • A written constitution


  • Longer term policy

Broken Democracy Fixed

Broken = The building – confrontational Fixed = Purpose built, fit for purpose, right location

Broken = Process, language matters Fixed = Honest

Broken = Ethics Fixed = Open and transparent

Broken = Overall understanding of democracy Fixed = Teach in schools lots of other things need to be taught in schoolstoo – like climate, race history, sociology issues – would all add up to affect attitudes.

Broken = Disenfranchised Fixed = Digital voting

Broken = What we actually own as a society (Inequality) Fixed = ?

Broken = Standard in Public Life Fixed = Standards and ethics defined and overseen possibly by a second chamber

Broken = Public Services Fixed = Public services secure and protected for the future

Broken = The economy Fixed = A macroeconomic framework designed for public purpose

Broken = The role of government  Fixed = ?

Broken = The role of MPs Fixed = Full time MPs

Broken = Voting System Fixed = Electoral Reform

Broken = Lobbying  Fixed = Independent civil service implementing due process

Broken = Personality politics Fixed = ?

Actions for Fixing our Broken Democracy

  • Written constitution providing the structure and roles and responsibilities for our democratic structures including the 7 Nolan principles

  • Politicians set the political agenda, civil servants deliver it

  • Education from an early age to inform and empower and how to make democratic change

  • We spend for public purpose; to deliver the right balance of our 3 key elements : economy, social structure and the environment

  • Local government given back responsibility, accountability and budget through decentralisation

  • Measure success differently

  • 2nd Chamber

    • Limit numbers

    • Remove patronage

    • Time limited

  • Consider election by 3rds

General Election 2024 – ‘Don’t Vote for Me’

  • Objective – Enhanced voter awareness via a free emailing to every household

  • All funding secured

  • Need for a campaign manager to undertake:

    • Liaison with Royal Mail

    • Liaison with press and other media

  • If interested in being involved contact Alan Rayner at Alan555@gmail.com

The South Devon Primary

  • Initial Steps

    • On the streets meeting and talking

    • ‘Democracy Meter’

  • Leaflets

  • Media Articles

    • Bylines

    • West Country voices

  • Preparation for volunteers

  • Public meetings in local halls, streamed

    • Candidates spoke and questions followed

    • Votes cast on leaving

    • Votes counted after last meeting

    • 78% for Lib Dems

  • The model is being copied in other constituencies

  • ‘Let’s be clever and vote together’

Creating Political Change Creatively – Through the Arts

  • Attract (young) people

  • Harness Festival Spirit

    • Run a festival – free of charge

    • Give a sense of community

    • People coming together and having a good time

    • Ask the council to contribute plus contributions in kind

    • How to get young people to organise it?

  • Go beyond party lines

  • Give young and other people a chance to express themselves

    • Street theatre

  • Music attracts, lifts energy and engages

  • Eg the film MR Bates Post office scandal

    • Get major companies to broadcast (make films)

    • Films by Franny Armstrong Rivercide

  • Take projects into schools to raise political awareness

  • Get speakers into Tapley Park events and Ocean Fest

  • Ongoing – build the culture

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