The empathy gap: why don’t you meet people who think differently to you? | Douglas Alexander

It’s not just MPs who are out of touch – I’ve seen how many people live, work and socialise in ways that mean we rarely encounter people unlike ourselves

• Douglas Alexander is a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and a former Labour minister

People often ask me, “Do you miss being an MP?” My answer is always a bit of a curate’s egg. I certainly miss being in government – where you can make change happen. But I don’t miss Westminster – even before the latest depressing revelations – it often felt to me like Hogwarts gone wrong.

But what I miss most of all is working in the constituency. For almost two decades my weekly routine involved hours of meetings with whoever wanted to talk to their local MP. In community halls and supermarket cafeterias I would listen, learn, and do what I could to help. Their stories, over the years, shaped my sense of the world. In that community, where I’d grown up, it was natural and normal for me to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds. It was a real gift.

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