Latest updates

  • Patel report shows need for MPs to receive compassion training

    November 20, 2020

  • Over half now want Covid response to be led by SAGE advice

    November 08, 2020

    Nearly two-thirds of the public (59%) believe the government’s response to Covid should follow the advice of SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, according to polling released today. That includes over half (51%) of Conservative voters.

    Close to half (47%), including a third of Conservatives (31%), also believe that the leaders of opposition parties should now be given a formal role in deciding the government’s Covid strategy.

    The polling [1], which was carried out by Opinium [2] with Compassion in Politics, comes after the government was criticised for delaying the imposition of the latest Covid lockdown. 

    It also found that the behaviour of politicians has caused 1 in 4 people to stop following the news and put 1 in 10 off voting at a general election [3].

    Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:

    “Too many issues of national significance - Covid, Brexit, and school meals - have been turned into political footballs. Rather than tackle the problems square on, many leading figures have sought to score cheap political points. It’s clear the public have had enough. They want to see mature, compassionate, and sensitive political leadership. 

    “We believe now is the time to form a government of national unity - or at the very least, to invite members of the opposition to attend Cabinet Covid meetings. Going forwards our response to Covid should be led by science, informed by a range of views and interests, and decided upon in the interests of the public as whole.”





  • Parliament has become more divided and hostile, research shows

    October 08, 2020

    Research from Compassion in Politics suggests that parliament has become more divided and increasingly hostile since the turn of the millennium.

    By analysing every single vote cast since Labour’s re-election under Tony Blair in 2001 the organisation was able to show that Labour and Conservative MPs are now far less likely to agree with one another than they were 19 years ago.

    The research also showed that, during the last four years, there has been a significant rise in the use of certain ‘hostile’ words that Compassion in Politics argue point towards an increasingly aggressive tone of debate.

    Between 2001 and 2005 under Tony Blair’s second administration, Labour MPs and Conservative MPs agreed with one another in roughly two out of five votes (42%). Since then the figure has fallen: despite a brief increase in levels of agreement from 2005 to 2009, levels of agreement between the two parties fell to 36% in 2009-2013, 31% in 2013-2016, and to just 10% since 2016 [1].

    The organisation points out that although the dramatic fall since 2016 is likely to have been caused by Brexit, there was evidently a general decline in agreement between Labour and Conservatives prior to that.

    Compassion in Politics also looked at how frequently three key words were used in parliamentary debates between 2015 and 2019 - enemies, traitor, and surrender. They found a 50% increase in the use of these words, rising from 625 references in 2015 to 946 in 2019. The organisation argues that these words represent a highly personalised and tribal style of debate that has become commonplace since the Brexit vote in 2016 [2].

    Gabriel Moore, lead researcher on the project, said:

    “What we found was that over a twenty year period, Labour and Conservative MPs clearly and consistently moved further away from one another. From a period in 2001-2005 when they could find agreement nearly half of the time they voted, we are now in a position where they almost completely and persistently disagree. The sharp fall in agreement that occurred after 2016 was clearly caused by Brexit but I would argue that the trends emerging pre-2016 are indicative of a more totemic, long-term change that has been happening in British politics and could yet continue.”

    Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:

    “Constructive disagreement is an important part of our democracy but this research has undercovered something darker and more sinister. It seems to confirm the impression many of us have had about politics for some time: that it has become an increasingly toxic, bitter, and destructive system which regards nastiness, point-scoring, and personal vendettas over constructive debate. Instead of encouraging members to find common ground its combative method of debating fosters differences and point scoring.

    “Now, with so many vital decisions to be made about our future as a nation, it is time to end the parliamentary pantomime and bring some harmony and civility into politics. We are calling for a new code of conduct for MPs, for compassion training, and the strengthening of parliamentary standards so that bad behaviour is prevented, cooperation encouraged, and respect restored.”

    Debbie Abrahams, Co-Chair of the All Party Group for Compassionate Politics, said:

    “In my nine years in parliament I have witnessed the civility and courtesy in debates fall, mutual respect decline, and cooperation collapse. Women in particular seem to be on the receiving end of put-downs, jibes, and jokes and we know that behaviour is being mirrored by the abuse that female MPs - and especially female BAME MPs - receive on social media and in the press. This has become particularly bad since 2016.

    “But I also know that there are many colleagues of mine, in all parties, who passionately believe in changing our politics for the better, in seeing the last few years as the nadir from which we rise rather than a path along which we must continue to tread. The APPG for Compassionate Politics will be working across parliament in the coming year for the adoption of new standards of debate and parliamentary practice and for new ways of reaching out beyond Westminster to improve relations between MPs and those they represent.”


    [1] Data tables: 


    Percentage of times Lab and Cons MPs voted together

    27/6/2001 - 26/03/2005


    27/03/2005 - 26/03/2009


    27/03/2009 - 26/03/2013


    27/03/2013 - 04/09/2016


    05/09/2016 - 07/06/2020



    [2] Data tables: 































  • Research shows governments now less accountable

    October 08, 2020

    Research out today suggests that governments of the twenty-first century have become increasingly less accountable to parliament and the electorate.

    The research has been published at a time when many MPs have become increasingly concerned that the government is pushing through Covid-related legislation without proper scrutiny. In the Lords, members are now debating legislation on Covid that has been in place for six months.

    Read more

  • Stop ‘Project Fear’, over 50 of country’s leading psychologists warn government

    September 18, 2020

    More than 50 of the country’s leading psychologists have written to the government warning them that their current messaging on Covid could lead to increased rates of anxiety, stress, and depression. 

    The letter, written in partnership with the think-tank Compassion in Politics, argues that government efforts to ensure public compliance with anti-Covid measures through fear-based messages could badly backfire. In particular they criticise recent government messages which have suggested that the behaviour of young people risks the death of their grandparents and that Christmas’s might have to be cancelled if infection rates continue to rise 

    The signatories argue that this approach could have a devastating effect on a population suffering from the mental strain caused by the pandemic. There is also evidence that fear-focused messages aren’t the most effective way to produce the required behaviour change 

    The letter further warns that the attempt to label “young people” as the cause of a recent spike in Covid infection rates could actually have the opposite effect to the one intended. They argue that blaming and shaming certain groups in this way could have a demoralising effect, causing them to disengage entirely from efforts to stem the spread of Covid.

    Signatories to the letter urge the government to reframe their Covid messaging to be far more sensitive and understanding of the public’s emotional state while conducting much more research into the kind of targeted messages that might be needed to convince certain groups to engage with anti-Covid behaviours.  

    Frances Maratos, Associate Professor and Reader in Emotion Science at the University of Derby, and one of the authors of the letter, said: 

    “We know from studies of the aftermath of previous epidemics that fear messaging isn’t an optimal solution for behaviour change, especially when considering its long-term effects. For example, Ebola risk-elevating messages increased public anxiety, with messages delivered via media exacerbating stress and worry. The ramifications of this include, for some, poor mental health that can persist long-after fear-based messaging campaigns have ceased.” 

    Professor Manuela Barreto, Head of Psychology at the University of Exeter, said: 

    “The focus on young people is an unfortunate distraction from the bigger issues underlying the current situation, and one that is unproductive and will only make matters worse. Research shows that fear actually reduces empathy and pro-sociality, especially towards more vulnerable groups in society.”

    Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:

    “Dealing with a global pandemic requires care, concern, and compassion - it can’t just be beaten into submission by strong words and harsh rhetoric. The government must remember the burden the public has already had to shoulder, the amount of change they’ve accepted and the sacrifices they’ve made. It will require our collective strength to finally see off Covid - dividing us will only make us weaker. Rather than blaming, shaming, and debasing the public’s attitude towards Covid, the government must focus its energy on building a robust testing regime, on safeguarding the NHS, and providing financial security to those households most at risk from the oncoming recession."

  • Over one in three adults admit inequality in Britain is worse than they thought pre-Covid

    August 26, 2020

    Over one in three adults now believe inequality in Britain to be worse than they had previously thought, polling out today reveals. The survey shows that 39% of people have revised their estimation of the levels of inequality in Britain as a result of the Covid pandemic. 1 in 5 (18%) actually believe inequality to be “much worse” than they had imagined.

    The polling, carried out by Opinium in partnership with Compassion in Politics, also reveals that two-thirds (63%) of people agree the government should do more to tackle inequality. This includes half (49%) of Conservative voters with nearly 1 in 5 (22%) Conservative party supporters admitting the government needs to do “much more” to upend inequality. 

    The survey also pointed towards one way in which the government might start to reduce inequality: by creating a more supportive and less punitive welfare system. 

    More than half (57%) agree that the welfare system should become less punitive than it currently is - including 43% of Conservative voters. Over 1 in 3 (37%) also think that it is “unfair” or “very unfair” for people who have been made unemployed by Covid to now face benefit sanctions. 

    Co-Chair of the All Party Group for Compassionate Politics Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said: 

    “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the endemic levels of inequality in Britain and this survey shows that the public agree that much more urgent action is needed to tackle it. We cannot continue with business as usual - with a system that left black and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those living in deprived communities ruinously exposed to the dangers of Covid. With this context, I believe the time is right for an urgent inquiry into the role of the welfare state, and especially the adequacy of social security, in reducing the widening inequality in Britain. We must remember how the welfare state was established after the Second World War. In exposing the extent of our inequalities, the Coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to reset how our society operates, where our welfare state enables everyone to live healthy lives.

    Co-Director of Compassion in Politics Jennifer Nadel said:

    “Compassion in Politics exists to push, persuade, and cajole governments into taking a more compassionate, inclusive, and cooperative approach. This is most important and most badly needed when it comes to people’s livelihoods, their health, and their wellbeing. This survey shows that Covid has helped people become more aware of the suffering of others and with that more willing to support measures aimed at reducing that suffering, tackling inequality, and ending poverty. Government should take note. Very few get the opportunity to redesign the economy but Covid has afforded that chance to this administration. Their priorities must now be the public’s health and wellbeing and making good their commitment to “level up” the national economy.”

    Grantley White, Senior Research Executive for Opinium, said:
    “COVID-19 has created a huge economic and social shock in the UK, laying bare the long-standing inequalities already in existence and bringing them to the surface in ways we’ve not seen before. Where most have fortunately had the savings and a secure job to fall back on, millions on lower incomes and in precarious work have faced the very real threat of losing their livelihoods and homes due to COVID-19, with no solid safety net to shield them from the flagging economy and the unknown aftershocks we’re yet to experience for the remainder of 2020.
    “The public are looking to the government to protect those in the most vulnerable positions, and our research shows this appetite stretches across the political spectrum.”
  • Compassion in Politics submission to Lords Committee on Covid

    August 04, 2020

    Compassion in Politics has made a formal submission to the House of Lords Committee on Covid-19. The Committee is running an inquiry on life after Covid, looking specifically at the changes that should be made to our politics, economy, and society.

    Our submission emphasised that:

    • Covid has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities in society: there has been a significantly higher infection and death rate for deprived and BAME communities
    • This is the result of decades of willful ignorance of the inability of our current economic system to redistribute wealth or provide adequate services and housing to the less-advantaged
    • Now is the time to re-imagine our economic system. We should be looking at transforming it into one which ensures everyone's basic needs are met and their health and wellbeing protected.

    The proposal we have submitted is based on the work we have been doing recently with Professor Michael Marmot and the APPG for Compassionate Politics on a proposed Covid Legacy Bill. You can read more about that here

    Download the full submission here.