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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Compassion v conservatism

While William Hague is backing the idea of "compassionate conservatism", a leading Tory advisor has quit the party, saying it is "plain nasty". Can compassion and conservatism co-exist?

Like Posh and Becks or Brad and Jennifer, some romances were just meant to be.

Others though - the "blossoming love" between Robbie and Geri, for example - may appear less solid.

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston
Happy together: Some couples are made for each other
A similar uncertainty surrounds one of the most unlikely couplings of recent years, that between compassion and conservatism.

Despite William Hague's best efforts to endorse the nascent philosophy in a recent speech to Republicans in Philadelphia, it has been dealt a major blow in Britain.

Ivan Massow, the dynamic gay entrepreneur, has quit the Tories for Labour, claiming the party had become "less compassionate, more intolerant and just plain nasty".

While US presidential hopeful George W Bush preaches a doctrine of caring conservatism, many say compassion in politics can only be the preserve of the Left.

So can the two ever co-exist?

COMPASSION CONSERVATIVE
n. pity inclining one to help or be merciful adj. a averse to rapid change b (of views, taste etc) moderate; avoiding extremes
Asylum - Last year more than 70,000 foreigners - many from war-torn states - applied for asylum in the UK, claiming they would suffer persecution were they to be returned home. Asylum - Both Labour and Tories say only a handful of "refugees" are genuine, but Mr Hague has consistently talked tougher on this issue. He has accused Labour of being a "soft touch" in this area and wants all new asylum seekers to be detained while their applications are considered.
Homosexuality - While gay activists would balk at the suggestion they want to be pitied, homosexual rights have long been identified with compassion politics. Homosexuality - Conservative peers have torpedoed government efforts to repeal Section 28, which forbids gay lifestyles being promoted in schools. Tory peer Baroness Young has vowed to fight a Bill to cut the age of consent for gays to 16. In the past though, Mr Hague has embraced the idea of gay marriages.
Pensions - In November 1980 the state pension was worth 22.6% of average earnings. Today it is worth 17.1%. More than a million old people are thought not to claim the income support top up. Pensions - Mr Hague has condemned the 75p-per-week rise in pensions, and pledged instead to increase all pensions by between 5 and 10 per week. But he would end the 150 winter fuel allowance and the 10 Christmas bonus.
School exclusions - Children from certain ethnic backgrounds, pupils with special educational needs and youngsters in care are most likely to be expelled from schools. There were 12,700 permanent exclusions in the academic year 1997/8. School exclusions - Mr Hague has pledged to scrap government targets to reduce expulsions. He would also axe local appeal panels, which have backed parents and their disruptive children in some cases.
Hunting - Animal rights activists have long campaigned for compassion towards foxes, who are ripped apart alive by hounds at the end of a successful hunt. Hunting - The opposition says compassion cuts both ways. It opposes plans to outlaw hunting, insisting it is the most humane way to control the fox population. It also cites a finding by the Burns Inquiry that there is "no conclusive evidence foxes suffer physical pain when being pursued by dogs".
Crime - For years opinion has been split on this one. Show a criminal compassion and he will simply re-offend, say some. Others feel that convicts are more likely to reform if society shows it cares for them. Crime - The shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe, says when it comes to compassion, victims not perpetrators should be first in line. After Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was sentenced for murder for shooting a burglar, Mr Hague said he would grant greater legal protection for people to guard their homes.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | UK
Ivan Massow: Gay abandon
02 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Robbie and Geri's friendly break
02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tory defector targets Hague
02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tory adviser defects to Labour
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