Cross-party MPs: Let’s make compassion the bedrock of British politics

Posted On: 
18th February 2019

At this defining moment in British history we must come together and rebuild our politics, write Thangam Debbonaire, Heidi Allen and Jo Swinson

A police officer extinguishes a flag set alight outside Parliament by protesters
Credit: 
PA Images

We represent three different parties, three different parts of Britain, and three separate political journeys but we share a common goal: to make compassion the bedrock of our politics in Britain.

We see value in our differences, not a reason for hate, and where we disagree over methods, we find compromise and common ground to achieve a goal that is bigger than each of us as individuals. This is a call to our colleagues, at what is a defining moment in Britain’s history and future, to join us in that endeavour and in so doing to sow the seeds of a more cooperative, co-productive, and compassionate politics.

What we are calling for is not some new utopia. In 1945 a consensus emerged amongst the main political parties that the only way out of the darkness of the devastating six years which had just passed was through mutual support, investment in services, and by inspiring public confidence in the vision of warm, open, and tolerant Britain that they could be proud of. With little money and depleted resources, we built a national health service, an education service, a welfare system – each of them the envy of the world.

Of course, there were disagreements and of course, there were failures, but successive administrations were able to build on the many achievements of the one that had gone before so that Britain emerged from the darkness of World War Two as one of the nations whose light shone brightest in the second half of the twentieth century.

Fast forward six decades and that legacy is in danger of being forgotten. We have each been disappointed by the descent of parliament into a stage not of progressive policy-making but for the playing out of intra and inter-party conflicts. We have been dismayed by the treatment of our colleagues on College Green and we are deeply concerned that MPs are in danger of making a rushed decision on Brexit, whichever way they vote, without the appropriate levels of detailed debate.

There is, of course, a myriad of reasons why we have arrived at this dangerous and fractious time in British politics, but we’d argue that one of the most fundamental has been the loss of a guiding moral compass that each party can unite behind. We believe that the 21st-century version of the 1940s consensus must be compassion. We live now in a globalised community. It’s incumbent on us to try and understand the backgrounds of those we mingle and work with and to build stronger communities, regionally, nationally, and internationally, as a result.

We need to reign in the excesses of corporate capitalism so that resources can be diverted back to the immediate and future needs of the public. We must lock-down in law our commitment to protecting future generations from the impacts of climate change. And we should seek to create a new culture in parliament which rewards cooperation and encourages cross-party working, building bridges not walls between colleagues on the ‘opposition’ benches.

These are just a few of the ideas emerging from the Compassion in Politics group which was launched last October by Lord Dubs and which has since grown to represent six different political parties and gained the support of individuals like Ruby Wax, Cerys Matthews, and Helen Pankhurst.

The momentum achieved by this group in a short space of time shows the appetite there is for doing politics differently and the power of our collective voices in making that happen. That’s why we want to invite all of our colleagues and friends in politics to not only try and put compassion at the heart of your decisions in the coming weeks and months but long-term to join with the Compassion in Politics group as together we build a new consensus and rebuild our politics. 

Thangam Debbonaire is MP for Bristol West, Heidi Allen is MP for South Cambridgeshire, and Jo Swinson is MP for East Dunbartonshire