‘Compassion in Politics’ is a Movement Whose Time has Come

Politics feels like an increasingly hostile environment dominated by egos and agendas. However, a new movement is aiming to put the compassion back into politics.

Whether it’s the Trump administration’s often naked racism and xenophobia, the complex class and immigration politics of the UK amid the shambles that is Brexit, or the way in which anti-immigration and far-right mentalities are now trying to take hold of European politics as a whole, there’s one thing for sure. Politics feels like it is less about serving the people and more about politicians serving narrow agendas that put profits over people’s lives.

Democracy cannot function when one party or one person attempts to rule alone. Nor can it function when the opposing parties are solely interested in undermining and unseating the current majority. So how do we combat this?

Putting Compassion into Politics

Last October, a UK group called Compassion In Politics launched with an aim to do exactly that. Compassion in Politics wants to create empathy in the political system and turn society away from a politics that seems centered on self-interest and big business and channel resources towards helping those who truly need it to help lift society up.

Barrister, writer and broadcaster Jennifer Nadel and leading rights campaigner Matt Hawkins founded the movement, which seeks to highlight what is good in our society, for example the life-saving power of the UK’s NHS. They want to focus on what has led us to some of the most enduring social progress in modern history: compassion.

It asks politicians to remember that most of them entered politics not to get rich or get ahead. They entered politics because they cared—so let them care and build a political system around that, not just anger.

Lord Alfred Dubs, who came to the UK as a child after fleeing Nazi persecution, joins a number of MPs, artists and journalists who are signing up to the movement.

Speaking in a piece for the Guardian last year, Lord Dubs said that, “Together we will overturn the oppressive narrative that says that all humans are just greedy and selfish and our political system and society must be built in that image. We will point to the founding of the NHS, the Kindertransport that gave me hope, and the many young volunteers who give up years of their lives for virtually no money helping in the refugee camps in France, Greece and elsewhere, as examples of British compassion.”

“We will argue that a political system and political ideas that reflect and encourage our own innate ability to feel compassion would make for a happier, more equal, just and productive society,” Lord Dubbs adds. “And we will propose that in future all new policies will need to be judged by the extent to which they are built on and promote compassionate values.

This sounds great, but critics might be quick to charge that sentiments don’t change the reality of what is going on in our politics today. That’s true, but that’s where Compassion in Politics really shines.

How Compassion in Politics Works in Practice

In a piece for Open Democracy last year, Hawkins spelled out we can turn compassion from a laudable ideal into a meaningful test of future policy. Hawkins explained, “Every new policy issued by government should have to prove that it will – and has – improved the lives of those most in need of help; that it was developed through a spirit of cooperation with other parties which utilizes respectful debate to improve policies with the proper degree of scrutiny; and that it does not impinge negatively on the lives of future generations.”

To an extent, such we already issue projections like this for a policy’s financial impacts. However, what policymakers often overlook is how a policy was formed and what needs it serves within the community—not just what questions it answers as our governments attempt to balance the books.

Reaching cross-party consensus is critical to this effort. Why? Because our politicians are our voices. If politicians from any party are being summarily cut out of negotiations or blocked from voicing their concerns or constructive feedback, this is actually cutting our voices off from the lawmaking process.

That’s why Compassion in Politics is backing a meaningful test for new policies that rates how they will serve the common good and how they fulfill the needs of the electorate.

Taking Compassion Beyond Policy

The movement doesn’t want to stop at just policy. It wants to bring civility back to politics, something that has seemed to evaporate over the decades. The group is working on a Code of Conduct for MPs that puts compassion as its central ethos.

I can already hear the “snowflake” objections to such a practice, but as usual such objections fail to actually recognize that politics have become a hostile, toxic masculine environment because we as a society have confused bullying with leadership. This has led to corruption and sexual and emotional abuse within politics.

That has to change, and creating a set of guidelines on compassion seems entirely timely, given other movements like #MeToo.

Compassion in Politics is also looking at a similar code of compassion for journalism. This will not stop the likes of the Daily Mail or Fox News, of course. What it will accomplish is to marginalize them and show how responsible journalism that puts constructive reporting and truthfulness at its heart can hold politicians accountable without feeding into unnecessary negativity about the political world, something that has ultimately left voters feeling angry and lost.

Compassion In Politics is about righting wrongs, but it is also about healing ourselves after what have felt like bruising decades of political acrimony and setting the intention for a better future in which we can all prosper.

Photo credit: Getty Images.


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

Loredana V
Loredana V2 months ago

Put compassion in every action

Susanne R
Susanne R2 months ago

RK R stated: "Compassion comes from the constituents. Government justice is derived from the Constitution and not from softness."

Constituents are people. Politicians are people. The Supreme Court justices, whose job it is to guard and interpret the constitution, are people. The Constitution is a document, so government justice, as you describe it, is derived from the human beings who pass rulings based on "their" interpretation of the constitution.

Susanne R
Susanne R2 months ago

According to the article, the UK group, Compassion in Politics, "..asks politicians to remember that most of them entered politics not to get rich or get ahead. They entered politics because they cared - so let them care and build a political system around that, not just anger."

This obviously has NOTHING to do with Donald J. Trump.

Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

The corrupt corporate Democrats and the Republicans need to start showing compasion for Ocasio Cortez, instead of constantly bashing her. AOC is honest, unlike them, and trying to end their corruption, stop them from taking millions from their corporate donors, and force them to support popular policies like Medicare for all, a 70% tax rate, worker coops, marijuana legalization, free colleges, and an immediate exit from all wars in the Middle East.

Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Shelley w
Shelley w2 months ago

Start by consequencing politicians like Maxine Waters who called for harassment of Republicans by 'getting in their faces' and finding them at gas stations, restaurants etc. Instead Pelosi rewarded her with a powerful position chairing the Financial Services committee. What about speaking out against the anti-semitism of AOC and the two new muslim congress women who support Hamas over Israel's right to defend itself against those who want to kill them.

Mary B
Mary B2 months ago

Every movements starts with an idea .

Shirley S
Shirley S2 months ago

A lovely concept that bruised & cynical Americans would find hard to digest.

Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

I agree that Trump is a crook, however electing corrupt Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who refuses to support Medicare for all, is not going to help us. Most of the Democrats are crooks like the Republicans, and have taken millions from corporations and Wall Street according to opensecrets.org. So both parties are corrupt. This is why we need Bernie Sanders as the next president.