During the recent reshuffle the government shifted rightwards in both tone and substance . Cameron has long aimed to stop the Tory party from being known as the ‘nasty party’, but he is undoubtedly failing.
This was reaffirmed today by the comments of the infamous Tory donor Lord Ashcroft on the current amount of aid spending. Today, Lord Ashcroft wrote a rather surreal open letter to the new International Development Secretary Justine Greening. Lord Ashcroft claimed that we ‘we can’t afford the aid budget’.
This is a hotly debated issue but for a serial tax avoider to weigh in shows sharp hypocrisy. Ashcroft has avoided 3.4 million in tax, highlighting one of the main reasons why the state does not have as much money as it should – indeed his argument that ‘we can’t afford it’ would have more weight if he paid his fair share of taxes.
Further facts that make his criticism hard to swallow is the £200 million the Department for International Development spent on an airport for St Helena, after Lord Ashcroft’s lobbying. At the time Andrew Mitchell argued this was provided to boost tourism, thus bringing more money to the area.
However consider that the £200 million spent on this project was equivalent to the entire amount spent on water and sanitation you may not believe this was the best way for DFID to spend its money.
The recommendation put forward is to scrap the DFID altogether, a truly regressive step that pre-dates 1997.
Furthermore under inspection Lord Ashcroft’s numbers do not stand up. In a clear attempt to scare the public, Ashcroft claimed that the DFID budget costs £300 per family, but actually for those on £15,000 a year £27 of a total £2,700 tax bill and for those on £26,000 a year £60 of a £6000 tax bill. Also a Daily Mail article used by Lord Ashcroft also proved to be misleading, because the EU money spent on ‘Turkish sewers’ mentioned in the piece comes from the EU budget but not the UK’s aid contribution to it.
Ashcroft states that a cut in DFID will be in the ‘best interests of people in poverty’ . If Government holds firm, and refuses the advice of Ashcroft and the Daily Mail then UK aid will put over 15 million children in school, provide over 80 million children with vaccines against life-threatening diseases and ensure better nutrition for more than 9 million people over the next four years.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.