Through good luck or bad, both Compass – the centre-leftish pressure group – and Progress – the cash-rich right-wing lobby group – have their conferences on the same day this year, September 9.
Progress says they want to promote “radical and progressive politics”, While the Progress conference bills itself as a “clear-sighted look at Labour’s challenges in the next decade”. It has a range of big name speakers, Blair, Meg Munn and Oona King to name but a few. But with Liam Byrnne (Smash teen yob gangs), David Aaronovitch (Smash ‘Islamofacists’) and Michael Portillo (Who dares loses), it looks like being radical in a way that will appeal to Telegraph leader writers, rather than Labour voters.
Progress prints ten extremely glossy mags per year and hold rather grand fringe events and conferences. Lots of people may well wonder where they get their money from. The Daily wouldn’t like to comment.
Compass is rather newer than Progress. Once you can get past the painfully inane and twee use of a Gandhi quote on their front page, inside pages and email signitures, they are quite a smart outfit. Their website is better for a start, and you don’t get a sense of queasiness when reading it. They describe their goal as: “to debate and develop the ideas for a more equal and democratic world” and were behind the anti-trust schools rebellion.
Ken Livingstone is the keynote speaker at the Compass conference, but he is the only named speaker confirmed so far. To be fair to Compass, it is actually more of an AGM than an annual conference.
As Progress is the main group organising
astroturf grassroots support for the Blair agenda and Compass is organising for a more social democratic agenda, it is interesting to see who will get the more support. Compass claims 1,200 members and a database of 9,000 supporters, while Progress is a little less forthcoming about their level of support.
Let’s see how their conferences go…