The Independent Group Isn’t Going To Solve The Crisis Of Compassion In Our Politics
How refreshing to hear politicians openly admit how broken our party political system is. To hear courage and integrity being argued for in the midst of the bog that Brexit has mired us in is enervating and exhilarating. But the solution to our current crisis is not another political party. Creating another party – or group, as its being called for the time being – is using the same tools that have caused the breakdown of the system to try to fix it. To paraphrase Einstein, problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.
There is a far simpler and more effective solution. Politics has lost its way because it has lost its compass. Compassion is the principle that can provide a new magnetic north to guide us out of the mess we now find ourselves in.
Brexit isn’t the cause but the manifestation of divisions in our society that pre-existed the referendum and will continue to divide our nation unless a renewal of our system takes place. The hate, the partisanship, the binary thinking are the symptom of a deeper problem, not the problem itself. The land that was made ‘fit for heroes’ after the Second World War has been replaced by a nation that is riddled with hate and shameful levels of homelessness, social exclusion and hunger. Now is the time for national unity behind a value we can all agree on.
If the many politicians who want to see change (including those who don’t want to leave their existing parties) were to commit to putting compassion at the heart of their decision making and conduct politics would change over night.
For the past forty years in Britain we have seen the dismantling of the social contract that bound us together as a society. The belief that we have a duty to those who fall upon hard times or who have been excluded from opportunity due to structural inequalities has been replaced by a toxic cocktail of legitimised greed, victim blaming and binary thinking. We live in a society of winners and losers – and if the losers aren’t winning its their fault and they need to try harder. Or the victors need to be punished until their pips squeak.
The answer isn’t a tug of war over the spoils of capitalism but a shared vision of the kind of society we want, not just for ourselves but for generations to come. A society that allows all its members to prosper – and by prosperity read mental and emotional well-being not just the narrow economic measure so valued by those who benefit from it. We need co-operation to replace competitive self-interest and understanding to replace judgment.
Compassion would give us a fresh commitment to the social contract. To the agreement we are here to help each other when we fall on hard times. That people matter more than profits. That tackling climate change while we still can matters more than propping up and pandering to industries that are hastening our demise.
Since Lord Alf Dubs launched Compassion in Politics last October MPs from six parties have joined our call to put compassion first along with academics, thinkers and artists ranging from Noam Chomsky and Peter Singer to Cerys Matthews and Ruby Wax.
Many of the sentiments expressed today by the seven are almost identical to the arguments that Compassion in Politics has been making since then. Indeed in today’s issue of The House magazine MPs from three political parties call on members of all political parties to join them in putting compassion at the heart of politics.
Compassion is not partisan. It provides powerful and practical solutions to our current crisis. The whipping system that obliges MPs to obey their parties over the consciences would end. Some simple measures could be introduced that would immediately enable us to address inequality and climate change. For example, a requirement that no new legislation could be passed that left the most vulnerable members of society worse off or that benefitted this generation at the expense of future generations. In an instant compassion could re-calibrate our society without the vagaries and risks inherent in attempting to dismantle the traditional party structures.
Yes our system is broken, yes we need to return to values but creating a new group – no matter how bold and brave its members – risks increasing infighting and factionalism rather than solving it, especially with an electoral system that stacks the odds against anyone who isn’t part of our worn-out two party system. The movement we need isn’t a new ‘party’ by a different name but a unifying principle. One that is inclusive and powerful and that can unite all sides of our divided kingdom and bring much needed change. A simple commitment to put compassion first by MPs of all persuasions could provide the shift in our political system and society that is so badly needed.