Creating a compassionate politics

Politics should allow everyone to come together to share and solve collective problems and, through that, continuously improve the welfare of society. 

To do that, politics needs to be empowering and inclusive: it needs to ensure votes and views matter, groups that have been traditionally marginalized are actively included, and decision-making spaces are respectful.

Rights

We need to create political spaces that respect and encourage a multitude of voices, especially those that have traditionally been excluded or discouraged.

This requires that everyone has the right to vote and to do so freely and fairly. Where possible, groups who have been traditionally marginalized should have systems in place to ensure their views are more proactively represented and heard in the political system. 

Inclusivity

Parliaments should be trailblazers in providing facilities and policies to encourage people from as many different backgrounds and with as man different experience as possible to engage. This can mean ensuring accessibility policies are in place – carer leave, for example – and the opportunity to work flexibily. Parliaments should also schedule debates to ensure everyone can take part and that facilities such as childcare are provided on-site to support new parents. 

Constructive debate

Politics should be about coming together to solve common problems, not an exercise in defeating, bullying, or humiliating others. When politics plays out like that, we all lose. 

Firstly, this requires ensuring debates take place in a constructive and respectful atmosphere. Booing, jeering, and shouting should be heavily discouraged and politicians rewarded for making their interventions about issues not personalities. “Whipping” systems (whereby politicians are told by their leaders how to vote) should be used sparingly and never allow for members of parliaments to be bullied or blackmailed into voting against their conscience. Votes should also take place anonymously with the results only published after-the-fact – this prevents parliamentarians from being pushed or cajoled into voting a particular way.

Citizen engagement

We need to encourage a transformation in civic engagement in politics. Politics should not be something that is done to people but by them. Opportunities should be explored to raise the voices of the public in political debate. This could be, for example, through the establishment of constituency assemblies, using online tools to gather public opinion before a major debate, through the devolution of power to localities, and by establishing individual panels of “lived experience” to develop and comment on proposed laws. 

Plurality

Voting systems can also play a major role in deciding how competitive a political system is. Pluralist and proportional systems help to ensure that a multitude of views and parties are represented, preventing elections from becoming a “two-horse race” between just two ideologies. Nonetheless, in pluralist systems, rules are still required to ensure that stable governance can be assured. 

Alleviating suffering

For politics to be orientated towards the alleviation of suffering and continual improvement of public wellbeing requires that these principles be put at the heart of parliamentary processes and structures.

One of the best ways to do this is through human-rights legislation. These laws provide important protections to the public as well as a guide to decision-makers: ensuring that their decisions are orientated toward compassionate outcomes. 

 

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