The December 2019 general election marked a tectonic shift in British politics. Not only was the electoral landscape redrawn but our entire understanding of the public mood was challenged. Those of us who consider ourselves part of the ‘progressive’ arm of politics feel like weary travelers; once convinced that we were on the right path, walking with our faces turned towards the sun, now we are trying to decipher a map we don’t fully comprehend while darkness obscures our vision.
In this atmosphere of confusion, uncertainty, and fear, Compassion in Politics brought together thinkers, activists, and influencers for a one-day conference in January 2019 in the hope of identifying exactly where we are, how we got here, and where we go next. Discussions ranged from radical reforms to our democratic system to the need to pay more attention to practices of self-care. No single narrative or strategy emerged. Rather, like a musical composition, the conference riffed and improvised around a range of central themes.
The first theme was trust. Most speakers agreed that one of the great illnesses afflicting 21st century democracy is a lack of trust – not just in politicians but in each other and ourselves. George Monbiot talked of the need for “radical trust” via the massive decentralisation of power and responsibility from Westminster. He argued that decentralisation enables democracy to become a habit, which in turn means that it can be owned by the public.
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