In 2013, when the mindfulness programme at the Palace of Westminster was established, its architects brimmed with hope and expectation. A radical transformation of politics was envisaged, with the UK at the heart of a family of mindful nations. Two years later, rhetoric undimmed, the Mindful Nation UK report gushed about pioneering a National Mental Health Service “to support human flourishing and thereby the prosperity of the country.” Not much evidence of any of that, is there? The gift to the nation turned out to be a decade’s worth of tame self-management programmes that have barely dented the status quo.
The UK Parliament recently celebrated 10 years of mindfulness at Westminster with a report, Mindfulness in Westminster: Reflections from UK Politicians, which examines the impact of mindfulness training on MPs, members of staff, and the wider parliamentary culture. One in 10 serving MPs and 800 employees – equivalent to a quarter of the current workforce of the Palace of Westminster – have taken part in mindfulness courses since 2013. Mindfulness is now a well-established presence in the halls of power. There is talk of a dedicated meditation room as part of a multibillion-pound overhaul of the parliamentary estate. Have you noticed what a difference mindfulness has made to the nation’s elite political institution?