Voters want more compassionate politicians, survey suggests amid Labour ad row

There has been unease on the Labour frontbench about the attacks on Rishi Sunak over the Conservative Government’s track record on crime.

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament

The majority of voters believe political leaders do not display enough compassion, research has suggested as Labour comes under criticism for its attack advert on Rishi Sunak.

Some 57% believe leading politicians should show more compassion, compared with 9% who say they are already too compassionate, according to a survey.

It comes as Sir Keir Starmer defied calls to withdraw Labour’s campaign accusing the Prime Minister of not thinking child sex abusers should go to prison.

Labour voters are far more likely to think political leaders in Britain do not show sufficient compassion, according to the research commissioned by the Global Compassion Coalition.

The YouGov survey had 83% of them responding that there was too little compassion, compared with 37% of Conservative voters at the last general election.

There has been unease on the Labour frontbench about the attacks on Mr Sunak over the Conservative Government’s track record on crime.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary in charge of Labour’s crime policy, was not informed or consulted about the campaign, according to The Observer.

Senior figures have also criticised it, with Labour former home secretary Lord David Blunkett suggesting the ad was an example of “gutter” politics, saying: “My party is better than this.”

He urged Sir Keir to intervene over the campaign, writing in the Daily Mail: “When baseless allegations and spurious slurs replace fair and robust political debate, not only is the standing of our leaders undermined, the very foundations of our democracy are compromised.”

Alongside a photo of the Prime Minister, an image reads: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”

The Twitter post highlights Labour analysis of official data and says that under the Tories “4,500 adults convicted of sexually assaulting children under-16 served no prison time”.

Judges and magistrates, rather than the prime minister of the day, are responsible for handing out sentences.

The figures Labour highlighted cover the period since 2010, five years before Mr Sunak entered Parliament.

He did not become Prime Minister until October last year.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said she disagrees with the critics, saying it was a “legitimate question” to ask.

Labour was continuing with the ad campaign.

The compassion survey of 2,003 British adults was carried out in February, before the row.

Jennifer Nadel, co-director of the Compassion in Politics campaign, said: “In the last few days we’ve seen an example of the kind of politics we must leave behind.

“A serious and sensitive issue has been used to score political points at the expense of respectful and constructive debate. And as our polling reveals – the public have had enough.

“Politics should be the space where we come together to solve common problems and improve lives for the better – not a winner-takes-all punch-up that leaves us all weaker and worn out.”

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