Compassion and Trust in Politics

What is the matter with Theresa May?  Is she really the untrustworthy and uncompassionate minister she has been portrayed, or does she just surround herself with advisers who are like that?

This morning on the Today programme Dominic Grieve spoke with barely veiled anger at the way he and others were let down by the PM last week over Europe amendments.  Well, that’s politics you may say.  But this interview followed soon after John Humphreys interviewed a mother who had been trying to get special cannabis oil for her epileptic child.  Not the mother who was interviewed by him yesterday who had just got Sajid Javid to relent and let her keep the cannabis oil she had brought back from Canada. Both families had spent tens of thousands of pounds having their children treated abroad and met uncompassionate and callous resistance from ministers and officials – especially in the Home Office.

Coming back to Theresa May – she apparently met the mother interviewed this morning, in March, and promised her that she would sort it so that her child could use the oil.  Her officials have still not approved the special licence and been deeply unhelpful to the mother concerned.  Theresa May’s flash of compassion has not been followed through – again showing she can’t be trusted.

Who presided over the Home Office and is responsible for the Windrush debacle: the families split up, the heartbreak of so many mistreated people?  This was no isolated case as readers of the I newspaper, and the Guardian know from reading week in and week out of bad uncompassionate decisions being made by Home Office ministers and civil servants.  The Law Society recently published a report that didn’t get nearly enough attention, in which it highlighted that the Home Office loses over 50% of immigration appeals.  This is a scandalous waste of public money.  Meanwhile, so many individuals and families are put through while uncompassionate civil servants mount ridiculous challenges to the most deserving asylum seekers for example.  The Law Society suggested that there might be institutional racism at the Home Office. That has been rather obvious to me for a long time.

Home Secretaries over the last few decades have a lot to answer for in failing to create the right sort of culture at the Home Office.  Yasmin Alibhai Brown made a devastating critique recently of previous Home Secretaries in the I newspaper.  “Abandon empathy all you who enter – the Home Office has long turned MP’s into monsters”.  The title is misleading – it’s really about Home Secretaries. The only Labour one she had a good word for was Roy Jenkins who was then Labour but subsequently realised where his natural home was.  The others were conservatives like Ken Clarke and Douglas Hurd and certainly didn’t include Theresa May or Amber Rudd.  Sajid Javid has started well – let’s keep the pressure on him to clean his dirty stables.

So back to Theresa May, whose lack of trust and compassion is evident also in the way she has treated press regulation.  David Cameron made solemn promises to the victims of press hacking and intrusion that Leveson Part 1 recommendations would be implemented and Leveson Part 2 would go ahead in due course.  Cameron and Nick Clegg met several times with victims of the press – the McCanns, the Dowlers, Christopher Jefferies and others – and promised them these things. Theresa May refused time and time again to meet the victims but of course, met regularly with Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre of the Mail.  And now she has got her sad and miserable Party to follow her lack of compassion for those victims and break the trusted pledge that Cameron made to them.

Our Party is the only one that could honestly headline a campaign to restore compassion and trust to political (and civil servant) compassion and trust.  How about it Vince?

John Kelly is Vice Chair of Warwick District Liberal Democrats and writes in a personal capacity.

* John Kelly is vice-chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

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7 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 20th Jun '18 - 1:35pm

    Trust in politics is very important. At PMQ on 20/6/2018 Theresa May said twice that in 2010 she ended the detention of children and families. She did not say that this was a key requirement of the coalition negotiations. Officials were surprised. There was widespread doubt that the government would stick to that announcement. Procedures needed to be reviewed. The head of the family would be detained for removal in the hope that the family would want to stay together, abroad.
    One Liberal Democrat minister who tried to work with her said “She knows her own mind” which he would probably not say now, in view of her different role and the different circumstances in the USA.

  • Sandra Hammett 20th Jun '18 - 1:41pm

    When you willingly buy trousers for £1000 and you consider the naughtiest thing you have ever done to be running through a field of wheat rather than for example selling arms to Saudi Arabia then you have a very strange set of priorities and are pretty well detached from other human beings on a moral and material level.

  • John Kelly…This morning on the Today programme Dominic Grieve spoke with barely veiled anger at the way he and others were let down by the PM last week over Europe amendments…………………………

    I certainly don’t put much store in Dominic Grieve’s ‘anger’. After his climbdown in today’s vote .our Brexit spokesman Tom Brake has seized on the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ nickname.
    “Just like the Grand Old Duke of York, Grieve has marched his troops to the top of the hill only to get cold feet and retreat with his tail between his legs.””Despite the clear calamity that May and Davis are making of Brexit, the so-called Tory rebels have lost their bottle and caved into yet another pathetic government compromise that isn’t worth the paper it is written on”.

    So, so true!

  • Dominic Grieve has just backed down and voted with the govt, so I guess one answer to your question would be that the PM might feel why should she deal honestly with him if he is just going to keep folding and backing her anyway even when she isn’t?

  • Sigh. Just when I think things can’t get worse, I’m proved wrong. With May, Trump, and a small but growing number of far right Governments in Europe – when did cruelty and “hostile environments” become the new normal? Are those of us who are appalled by this sort of thing really a minority?

  • I just signed a petition this evening for a woman who needs a kidney transplant if she is to survive and a home office official has refused her brother a visa to come and donate for spurious bureaucratic reasons. https://click.mail.change.org/?qs=199f8dc9bf3fd0d852c2a8d62203406c1e2efbab7da6d7d032a884e070b796f818e1897dce1a7bc5e48354fadb2670b9271d099f4904beaf35894799c7f4f471 Tomorrow will undoubtedly bring some new home office horror story.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Jun '18 - 1:33pm

    I suppose compassion looks weak though in fact the truly strong leaders are compassionate. We have a weak government, divided and fighting their corners. The Labour leadership is joining in this dive to the deep.

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