Encouraging consensus on development policy from leadership candidates

Though four weeks remain till the result of the leadership election is known, there are a few things of which the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID) can be certain. No matter who wins on 25th September the party will continue to be a passionate supporter of development issues.

Our guest writer is Charlie Samuda of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID/@LabourCID)

Though four weeks remain till the result of the leadership election is known, there are a few things of which the Labour Campaign for International Development can be certain. No matter who wins on 25th September the party will continue to be a passionate supporter of development issues given the encouraging responses of all the candidates to a series of LCID interviews, which can be seen here.

Ed Miliband said:

“The plight of the world’s poorest people always has to be a moral imperative for us as a political movement.”

When David Miliband spoke recently of the leadership debate as being ‘too comfortable’ it was meant as a slight criticism of the major areas of policy overlap between the candidates. When it comes to agreement on policies to help some of the poorest countries and people, however, this can only be a good thing.

Interviews with the five candidates revealed not just an embrace of the development agenda but four substantive areas of agreement:

• Support for a Robin Hood Tax on the financial sector to help the world’s poorest;

• The need to protect the DFID budget from cuts;

• Importance of pressing the coalition on its actions on development policies as well as its promises;

• That Britain must remain an international leader on the issue of poverty reduction.

Andy Burnham said:

“As PM I would set the most ambitious vision for DFID to carry on their work changing lives around the world… and driving through progress on the MDGs.”

Each of the candidates talked passionately about development as a priority of the party and spoke of New Labour’s record on the issue as being as source of pride. There were concerns, however, that the coalition government might undermine much of this good work. Ed Miliband, for example, noted that much of the Conservatives early enthusiasm about action on climate change – vital to addressing the needs of the world’s poorest – has slipped off the agenda.

Pressure is needed, argued all of the candidates, to make sure that the Coalition Government’s policies reflect the spirit not just the letter of development commitments such as the funding target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.

Diane Abbott said:

“I think trade, not just aid, is the key to giving justice and decent living standards to people in the third world.”

Ed Balls said:

“Labour must make sure that the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world don’t suffer from climate change.”

Another theme in the videos was the need to push for policies on climate change and trade at a multilateral level as a means to helping the world’s poorest. Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and David Miliband made the case for working through the European Union on trade and environmental policy to support development aims; each noted that the Tories’ lack of alliances in Europe would make this more difficult.

Ed Miliband referenced his experience in climate negotiations as the type of international decision making forum where Britain needs to show leadership and ambition. Diane Abbott noted that that if Africa, much of Asia and Latin America were to increase their trade by just 1 per cent that would take 128 million people out of poverty.

On the Robin Hood Tax David Miliband said:

“It’s essential that we make sure that responsibility and check and balances are put into the [financial] system.”

It was also encouraging to see some specific proposals for the future of development policy in opposition as well as in government. For labour in government development should be about “both campaigning and resources” (as Ed Balls put it), keeping up the pressure on the coalition and foreign government to make development a priority. A Robin Hood Tax enjoyed support from each of the candidates as a just and sustainable means to fund development overseas and prevent cuts to public services at home.

The overall message is clear; the future direction of the party will encompass strong support for the world’s poorest whoever ends up as leader.

On 9th September, LCID is hosting a hustings in Bristol where you can put more questions to the candidates in person; to vote in the Leadership election, you must join the Labour Party before 8th September.

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